My Body Is a Book of Rules

Elissa Washuta, Author
Elissa Washuta. Red Hen, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59709-969-1
Reviewed on: 06/30/2014
Release date: 08/01/2014
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Washuta, a Seattle writer and member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, is a survivor and cautionary tale. 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. A friendless student obsessed with holding onto her scholarship at the University of Maryland, Washuta was a virgin when she was raped by an acquaintance. In denial over what happened and without faith in the justice system, she didn’t take legal action. When she finally sought help more than a year later, a woefully inadequate clinic staff misdiagnosed her and prescribed the wrong medications. The literal highs and lows the search for a manageable chemical cocktail are such that she adores a pill that causes massive weight loss even though it makes her feel “at risk for ripping [her] own heart out.” Although Washuta’s story is not an easy read, the fact that Washuta has been able to build a life for herself is a credit to her fierce strength. It’s one that parents, educators, mental health providers, and young women will find immensely valuable. (Aug.)
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