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 powerful collection of interlinked essays, Cowlitz writer Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules, 2014) explores the inescapable presence of colonization and other traumas as they circle through and around her romantic relationships, her Native identity, and even the pop culture she consumes ... Washuta’s essays refuse the mandate of a tidy resolution ... White Magic is an insightful, surprising, and eloquent record of stories of magic and the magic in stories.
To understand her experience, she uses ideas from witchcraft, tarot, astrology, and even Twitter discourse as resources. With this, she creates a beautifully-rendered piece of art that isn’t easily labeled ... To read about the Seattle that Washuta lived in for a decade as it grew into the tech ogre it is, and inhabit those same spaces through her writing, is a gift for any reader interested in the real history of the United States ... Washuta intertwines her own experience alongside history’s violence. This serves to place the reader into Washuta’s creative process while also highlighting the reverberative effects of occupation ... She writes of colonization but is quick to dismiss the violence inflicted on her body, such as rape and ensuing trauma, as a metaphor for it. She is colonized, yes—which helped perpetuate this violence as a central facet of the American experience—but that is only some of the story. Washuta utilizes this approach skillfully ... her writing shows the nonlinearity of healing.
White Magic is a delight and a challenge ... Elissa Washuta is a refreshing narrator, her prose poetic and sparse ... Such open admissions of confusion and searching cultivate an intimacy throughout the text, evoking the sense of peeling open a letter from an estranged friend; Washuta’s voice haunts by admitting to being haunted ... A poignant work by a rising essayist, White Magic speaks to the ongoing work of recovery that is anything but magic.