cover image White Magic

White Magic

Elissa Washuta. Tin House, $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-951142-39-1

Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules), a creative writing professor at Ohio State, offers in this collection of tender reckonings “a book about how my heart was broken” and her attempts to heal it. Washuta recounts her struggles with sobriety, relationships, and the “tyrannical rule” of PTSD in her life. In search of healing, Washuta, a Native woman and occult enthusiast, examined the differences between “white magic” and misaligned, “malicious” black magic, and sought out “a version of the occult that isn’t built on plunder.” In “Little Lies,” Washuta reflects on a D.A.R.E. drunk-driving ad soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins, and “The Spirit Cabinet” is an episodic collection of “synchronicities” often about her ex-boyfriend, featuring quotes from magician David Blaine. The most eloquent section highlights her grief moving through a world built on violence toward Native peoples: “I have lost my land, my language,” she writes. Her prose is crisp and precise, and the references hit spot-on (such as her fascination with the Sumerian goddess Inanna, who travels through the underworld, and with Twin Peaks, “a show about the unexplained, the mystical, and the cycles of violence and neglect to which women find themselves tethered”). Fans of the personal essay are in for a treat. Agent: Monika Woods, Triangle House. (Apr.)