Ah, Emma Watson. She's been a fan favorite of many ever since she first donned Hermione Granger's robes 17 years ago. And Watson has not only continued to gift us with some iconic onscreen roles — she has used her platform to become an outspoken icon for feminism and literacy around the world. So, naturally, we're always looking forward to seeing what book Watson has chosen for her Our Shared Shelf book club, which was launched in 2016 with the mission to highlight fiction, memoir, and other stories written by women. Phenomenal past picks include Naomi Alderman's The Power and Roxane Gay's Hunger.
So when Watson took the Our Shared Shelf Goodreads page to share the news of March's pick, Terese Marie Mailhot's memoir, Heart Berries, I was already sold. But reading her super relatable reasons for choosing the book, along with poking some fun at her recent temporary tattoo faux pas, made me immediately click hold on the book at my local library.
“Having always felt deeply impatient and limited by having to express myself in perfect grammar and punctuation (this was pre-apostrophe gate!), I am quietly reveling in the profundity of Mailhot’s deliberate transgression in Heart Berries and its perfect results," Watson writes. "I love her suspicion of words. I have always been terrified and in awe of the power of words – but Mailhot does not let them silence her in Heart Berries. She finds the purest way to say what she needs to say.”
After all, who hasn't read a book in which the writing has so blown them away and left them in awe from the sheer perfection that they can't help but push it into the hands of evey single person they know? And with 213,305 book club members on Goodreads, Watson is pushing it into a whole lot of hands.
Heart Berries is Mailhot's memoir of coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II, Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother; a story of reconciliation with her father—an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist—who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
In an interview with Bustle, Mailhot spoke about transforming pain into art. "Turning those revelations into art was a whole other thing,” she said. “I did it, though — and that helped me realize my power, beyond the pain. Being able to illustrate those experiences for readers was a triumph, because it took everything to resist all the urges I have as a human being to present myself as good, or healed, or undamaged. I had to work against myself to make the memoir, and I ended up more empowered than I ever thought I could be.”
But Watson hasn't only picked Heart Berries for its beauty and it's power to inspire others. She, like so many readers who are continually calling for more diverse representation in literature, know that opening the world up to the story of a Native American woman who, for so much of history, has been silenced, is a powerful choice.
"It feels right and vastly overdue to be reading a story from a First Nation woman with her perspective of a colonial world," Watson writes. "I loved her keen observations of white people (like me) and their ways. It’s critical to be reminded that there are ways of thinking and seeing things that endure and have existed long before colonizers. There are a million ways to think about things! It’s good to have this named."