Elissa Washuta

Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a nonfiction writer. She is the author of Starvation Mode and My Body Is a Book of Rules, named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. With Theresa Warburton, she is co-editor of the anthology Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the Ohio State University.


  • “Elissa Washuta’s newest collection of essays is coming out in 2021—and they may be exactly what you need right now.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “In this potent, illuminating memoir in essays, Elissa Washuta, a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, digs into her relationship with magic and the occult. . . . Touching on love, heritage, identity, and faith, White Magic is resonant and weighty.”


  • “A fascinating magic trick of a memoir that illuminates a woman’s search for meaning.”

    Kirkus, Starred Review

  • “Washuta’s frank confrontations with, and acknowledgments of, unhealed wounds are validating. . . . evoking the sense of peeling open a letter from an estranged friend. A poignant work by a rising essayist.”

    Foreword Reviews, Starred Review

  • “Her prose is crisp and precise, and the references hit spot-on. . . . Fans of the personal essay are in for a treat.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Powerful. . . . Washuta’s essays refuse the mandate of a tidy resolution. Instead she circles around each subject, inspecting it as symbol, myth, metaphor, and reality, all while allowing her readers space to draw their own conclusions, or to reject the need for any conclusion at all. Like a stage magician, she asks readers to look again. White Magic is an insightful, surprising, and eloquent record of stories of magic and the magic in stories.”


  • “[White Magic] is unlike any other book out there and will certainly launch Washuta’s meteoric rise.”


  • “Washuta’s story and struggles become a metaphor for the toll of colonialism on generations of Indigenous people like herself. Readers of recovery narratives, women’s issues, and keenly observed social commentary will be rewarded here.”

    Library Journal

  • “A funny, piercingly intelligent memoir. . . . Washuta is thoroughly gifted.”


  • “Remarkable. . . . Each essay is skillful at interweaving the personal and the historical—and on the whole, the collection is, well, magic.”


  • “White magic, red magic, Stevie Nicks magic—this is Elissa Washuta magic, which is a spell carved from a life, written in blood, and sealed in an honesty I can hardly fathom.”

    —Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians

  • White Magic is funny and wry, it’s thought-provoking and tender. It’s a sleight of hand performed by a true master of the craft. White Magic is magnificent and Elissa Washuta is spellbinding. There is no one else like her.”

    —Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things

  • “Elissa Washuta is exactly the writer we need right now: as funny as she is formidable a thinker, as thoughtful as she is inventive—her scrutiny is a fearless tool, every subject whittled to its truest form.”

    —Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood

  • “These pages are windows into a black lodge where Twin Peaks and Fleetwood Mac are on repeat—sometimes forward, sometimes backwards, sometimes in blackout blur. I stand in awe of everything here. What an incredible and wounding read.”

    —Richard van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed

  • “Part history, part riddle, part portal: this book worked on me like a spell. I’ve never read anything like White Magic, and will be returning to it again and again.”

    —Claire Comstock-Gay, author of Madame Clairevoyant’s Guide to the Stars

  • “In this riveting and insightful collection of personal essays, Washuta candidly explores addiction, mental illness, coping (and not), relationships, land, pop culture, colonization, magic and cultural legacy.”

    Ms. Magazine, "Most Anticipated Reads of 2021"

  • “In this incantatory, impassioned book of essays, Elissa Washuta offers readers a glimpse into a world of magic and spirituality, one which she has created for herself, drawing on the traditions of generations before her, and incorporating those things in her own life that have meaning and power. It starts with disillusionment; Washuta is healing from the trauma of a decade of unsustainable intoxication and addiction, and she seeks—and finds—a connection with a world beyond this one. Washuta’s essays interlace themes of inheritance, loss, colonialism, identity, and ownership to beautiful, heart-aching effect in this, yes, wholly magical look at learning how to recognize the power that rests within you.”

    —Refinery29, "50 Books to Read in 2021"

  • “An innovative and deeply felt work to sink into.”

    —The Millions

  • “This is definitely one that you need on your TBR right now. Like stop whatever you’re doing, open your Goodreads or whatever you use. StoryGraph. And add it because it’s definitely one you’re going to want to read this year.”

    —Reading Women Podcast