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.
This debut memoir from the independent publisher Red Hen Press isn't for the faint of heart. 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. Washuta's form, including revised psychiatrists' notes, annotated research papers on the use of the term hooking up, summaries of prescription medications, and a Match.com profile, is inventive and invites the reader into the author's chaotic brain. The book perfectly articulates the difficulties navigating the path toward adulthood while coping with trauma and mental illness.
--Melissa Duclos for Bustle