Sinister Myth: Talking to Elissa Washuta about Trauma, the Body, and How We Write It

I am really looking forward to my podcast, Sinister Myth, starting up again at the end of the month, featuring an interview with Cowlitz non-fiction writer, Elissa Washuta. I know a lot of my podcasting friends have been working out how to deal with the current crisis where we don’t have the same access to studio resources. It’s great to be back on track.

Elissa has a number of interesting books, including the riveting My Body Is a Set of Rules (recommended reading!!), Starvation Modes – about disordered eating, and the anthology edited with Theresa Warburton, Shapes of Native Nonfiction. Her forthcoming book, White Magic, sounds amazing!

Interviewing Elissa was really fascinating because we spent a lot of time talking about voice. Something I have always admired about her work is the refusal of shame in her speakers, and the challenging voice that is full of power. The full interview will be out at the end of July, and I will be prescribing it to many of my students. In the meantime there is a tiny snippet in the YouTube clip below to keep you going until then.

Elissa is a trained fencer, but in the clip below, she talks about her experience of weight-lifting, and how trauma is held in the body. It’s a subject we have talked about a lot on Sinister Myth.

When we were interviewing Elisha Clark-Halpin and Megan Moore, both dancers from Pennsylvania State University, we had a long talk about dance and the release of trauma from the body. For them, dance has therapeutic properties related to movement of the body.

If this is not an idea you have come across before, a good place to start in thinking about trauma being in the body is Bessel Van Der Kolk’s groundbreaking book, The Body Keeps the Score: you can read an article about it here.

Here it’s not dancing but weight-lifting that has therapeutic properties. The question we might ask ourselves though, is how differently would we treat trauma if we thought of it as being held in the body and needing to be released somehow? What if recovery was not only about thinking but about moving and being present in the world?