Named one of the best books of 2021 by TIME, NPR, the New York Public Library, Lit Hub, Electric Lit, and Ms. Magazine


“Beguiling and haunting. . . . Washuta’s voice sears itself onto the skin.”

The New York Times Book Review





“A fascinating magic trick of a memoir that illuminates a woman's search for meaning.”

Kirkus, Starred Review


White Magic is divine, incantatory, a riddle, an illusion. In Elissa Washuta’s hands, this collection becomes more than the sum of its parts. The subjects of these essays are parts of a bigger story—like a spell with the intention to make whole what has been wounded.”



“Powerful. . . . Washuta’s essays refuse the mandate of a tidy resolution. Instead she circles around each subject, inspecting it as symbol, myth, metaphor, and reality, all while allowing her readers space to draw their own conclusions, or to reject the need for any conclusion at all. Like a stage magician, she asks readers to look again. White Magic is an insightful, surprising, and eloquent record of stories of magic and the magic in stories.”



“In brilliant, clear-eyed prose, Elissa Washuta maps a magical passage into (and back out of) the underworld, through knotty legacies of violence and longing and love. Part history, part riddle, part portal: this book worked on me like a spell. I've never read anything like White Magic, and will be returning to it again and again.”

—Claire Comstock-Gay, author of Madame Clairevoyant’s Guide to the Stars


“As an essay collection, White Magic is as beautifully complex as it is illuminating. Washuta is a conjurer here, able to effortlessly showcase her talents while simultaneously pulling you close, as if she might suddenly reveal all her secrets. She is a genius at the art of subtle misdirection. Reading this book felt like being shown an expertly performed magic trick: deftly, flawlessly. No loose threads revealed. The work is funny and wry, it's thought-provoking and tender. It's a sleight of hand performed by a true master of the craft. White Magic is magnificent and Elissa Washuta is spellbinding. There is no one else like her.”

—Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things and With Teeth


“You're going to feel like you’re drownfloating reading this diary of pain and meditation and wish for magic where every word helps Elissa Washuta’s soul return to her body. White Magic is as haunting as the work of Beckylane’s Where The Rivers Join and as eerily hypnotic as Kate Schatz’s Rid of Me. These pages are windows into a black lodge where Twin Peaks and Fleetwood Mac are on repeat—sometimes forward, sometimes backwards, sometimes in blackout blur. I stand in awe of everything here. What an incredible and wounding read.”

—Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed and Godless but Loyal to Heaven


“Elissa Washuta is exactly the writer we need right now: as funny as she is formidable a thinker, as thoughtful as she is inventive—her scrutiny is a fearless tool, every subject whittled to its truest form. White Magic is a bracingly original work that enthralled me in a hypnosis on the other side of which I was changed for the better, more likely to trust my own strange intelligence.”

—Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart, Abandon Me, and Girlhood


“White magic, red magic, Stevie Nicks magic — this is Elissa Washuta magic, which is a spell carved from a life, written in blood, and sealed in an honesty I can hardly fathom.”

—Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians and My Heart Is a Chainsaw







Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, “starter witch kits” of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning.

In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life—Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham—to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule.

Read excerpts: The Cut, The Paris Review, Guernica






Publication Date: 04/27/2021
Publisher: Tin House Books

Available now in hardcover: independent bookstores | Bookshop | Penguin Random House Canada

Paperback available 3/15/2022

Audiobook: from an independent bookstore via | Audible

eBook: Kobo | Kindle

For all requests, invitations, and other messages, email Monika Woods, literary agent at Triangle House, at







Elissa Washuta headshot. Photo by KR Forbes.