White Magic

hardcover, 350 pages

Published April 27, 2021 by Tin House Books.


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5 stars (2 reviews)

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, …

3 editions

Hard to describe, but intense

5 stars

This book is a lot. It bounces all around in an attempt to compile and associate many thoughts and emotions, with many comparisons of the author's life to media. I really liked it because it felt like it was communicating something more than just words or logical sentences could about her life, her mind, her culture, etc.

Her words speak to the connections we make in our mind between various things, events we remember happening, movies we've watched, games we've played, and how we take these connections and use them to piece together a life's narrative, attempt to explain trauma, or give ourselves a reason to carry on. The book questions whether these connections are caused by something more or if they are just coincidences, and whether, in our investigations, we even want to know that answer. Is it better to be fully grounded in a world full of trauma, …


5 stars

a collection of essays weaving together magic, whiteness, indigeneity and colonization, the pacific northwest, domestic violence and living and loving through ptsd, alcohol and sobriety, red dead redemption 2. beautiful, excited to dig into some of the footnotes (esp about indigenous stories and their relationship to natural phenomena, like the Salish stories of historic Seattle earthquakes along a fault caused by serpent a'yahos: www.nature.com/articles/news050711-7)