My Body Is a Book of Rules

A finalist for the Washington State Book Award

In My Body Is a Book of Rules, Elissa Washuta corrals the synaptic gymnastics of her teeming bipolar brain, interweaving pop culture with neurobiology and memories of sexual trauma to tell the story of her fight to calm her aching mind and slip beyond the tormenting cycles of memory.

As Elissa Washuta makes the transition from college kid to independent adult, she finds herself overwhelmed by the calamities piling up in her brain. When her mood-stabilizing medications aren’t threatening her life, they’re shoving her from depression to mania and back in the space of an hour. Her crisis of American Indian identity bleeds into other areas of self-doubt; mental illness, sexual trauma, ethnic identity, and independence become intertwined. Sifting through the scraps of her past in seventeen formally inventive chapters, Washuta aligns the strictures of her Catholic school education with Cosmopolitan’s mandates for womanhood, views memories through the distorting lens of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and contrasts her bipolar highs and lows with those of Britney Spears and Kurt Cobain. Built on the bones of fundamental identity questions as contorted by a distressed brain, My Body Is a Book of Rules pulls no punches in its self-deprecating and ferocious look at human fallibility.

 

Reviews

"In a reliably honest, original and frank fashion, Washuta’s ruminations lift the veil of her chronic (and highly medicated) bouts of mental illness to reveal the confused, frenetic and often traumatic reality of living with overwhelming bouts of depression and mania. A fever dream of darkly personal memories and musings from the shadowy corners of sexual violence and mental illness." -KIRKUS REVIEWS

"In her harrowing chronicle of bipolar disorder, sexual violence, and struggles with Native identity, she provides a window into this country’s failures when it comes to responding to mental illness, rape and the negative messages women receive about their sexual agency. ... It’s [a story] that parents, educators, mental health providers, and young women will find immensely valuable." -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"Washuta lays bare all of her pain and frustration in a staggeringly personal memoir that will leave a deep impression on readers. ... She searches and yearns for answers in this brutally honest and utterly unforgettable narrative." -BOOKLIST

"No matter how prepared you think you are for Washuta, she's sure to knock you over." -THE STRANGER

"Elissa Washuta’s memoir isn’t coming out until August, but you should have it on your radar now. … [The book] is an ultra-modern take on contemporary femininity, mental illness, and identity." -COSMOPOLITAN

"The old saying goes that rules are meant to be broken, but what happens when mental illness defaces the rule book? My Body is a Book of Rules is a collection of calamities — bitterly funny, fierce, sometimes crass and sometimes heartbreaking." - THE SEATTLE TIMES

"Elissa Washuta’s My Body Is a Book of Rules transcends the tropes of the genre by virtue of the unsentimental strength of her prose. She’s reflective without being solipsistic, insightful without being pedantic, and wise beyond her years." -SEATTLE MET, "20 Books Every Seattleite Should Read"

"...an exquisitely poignant chronicle, captivating in the author’s vulnerability." -SEATTLE WEEKLY

"In Body, Washuta shows why younger voices and voices outside the mainstream matter. They show us the immediate implications of our current culture on our psyches, bodies, and hearts. In her refusal to apologize or sugarcoat her thoughts and behavior, and her refusal to let others off the hook for their actions, Washuta forces us to reflect on our own experiences and draw the connections." -THE RUMPUS

"These are raw and painful essays, but through them, Elissa rebuilds herself, her body, her brain, and her trust in herself. Her story empowers her readers to do the same." -ROOKIE

"Washuta’s honest and lyrical language as well as her subject matter — her struggles with bipolar disorder and coping with the effects of rape — will gut you, but it’s the rawness of this work that makes it worth reading." -BUSTLE

"...a completely unforgettable book. ... If Elissa Washuta wants to rewrite the phone book, I would happily read it." -THE SUNBREAK

"Washuta's stark, compressed prose is brave and gutting." - THE PORTLAND MERCURY

"...this book is more than just a juxtaposition of wild, contemporary forms. Washuta’s accomplishment is to crawl inside these forms and manipulate them to tell her truth." -Samir Atassi, RIVER TEETH

"Washuta does more than show her experiences in her non-fiction collection My Body Is A Book of Rules. Rather, we see that the life of someone with bipolar disorder is an experience of reading a body in revolt: the push of blood and chemicals, the attack of air to the lungs, and the cells that scream the boundaries and solid truths of a body are all delusions." -Natanya Pulley, AS/US

"...a serious and often harrowing memoir, and it’s also one of the funniest books I’ve read all year... I’ve penciled 'HA HA HA' at least once per paragraph." -Elissa Bassist, VELA MAGAZINE

"Unlike the all-too-familiar beginning-to-end chronology many memoirs follow, My Body presents readers with a series of fragmented essays made into a clear and cohesive whole. In a way that is exceptionally frank, Washuta vividly describes to readers her journey through the ebbs and flows of sanity and insanity, self-esteem and self-hatred." - Tai Dietrich, CROSSROADS LITERARY JOURNAL

"My Body is a Book of Rules is a painful book to read, but true, often funny, and overall worthy of admiration." -Corey Campbell, WAXWING LITERARY JOURNAL

"Abnormality, something that frightens many people, is what gives power to this work. Washuta felt no need to follow in the patterns and expectations of the literary works before her—she does whatever the fuck she wants and it’s really and truly refreshing. Danielewski would be proud." -Kayla Greenwell, BLOTTERATURE

Publisher

Red Hen Press

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