Publication Date: February 1, 2021
You can tear a thing apart and tape it back together, and it will still be torn and whole. There is no other way. In her fiercely beautiful memoir, Jeannine Ouellette recollects fragments of her life and arranges them elliptically to witness each piece as torn and whole, as something more than itself. Caught between the dramatic landscapes of Lake Superior and Casper Mountain, between her stepfather’s groping and her mother’s erratic behavior, Ouellette lives for the day she can become a mother herself and create her own sheltering family. But she cannot know how the visceral reality of both birth and babies will pull her back into the body she long ago abandoned, revealing new layers of pain and desire, and forcing her to choose between her idealistic vision of perfect marriage and motherhood, and the birthright of her own awakening flesh, unruly and alive. The Part That Burns is a story about the tenacity of family roots, the formidable undertow of trauma, and the rebellious and persistent yearning of human beings for love from each other.
Praise for The Part That Burns:
"This story builds so beautifully; this voice is so confident. I love this book and am grateful it is in the world." —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller
"At turns tender and devastating, these essays are finely carved vignettes that, laid together, form a powerful portrait of one woman’s path from hard girlhood to motherhood, the grace and mettle it takes not only to survive but to flourish." —Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me and Girlhood
"Vital, full of energy and wisdom, Jeannine Ouellette’s memoir crackles with excitement. From the shores of Lake Superior to the mountains of Wyoming to the banks of the Mississippi River, this is a story of American migration—not just of families but of spirits."
—Rene Denfeld, author of The Child Finder and The Butterfly Girl
"With a poet’s voice and an uncanny knack for mining memory, Ouellette...loops back and forth in time to the same seminal experiences, adding layers of depth and understanding, and in so doing shows us how her wild determination to overcome the trauma of her childhood results in a life lived on her own terms. Full of love, loss, and hard-won redemption, The Part That Burns is a fiercely beautiful memoir." —Alison McGhee, author of The Opposite of Fate and Someday
"Ouellette creates a house of many doorways into her broken past for the reader to step through. Our perspective shifts, our understanding deepens with each telling and, in the end, Ouellette’s story changes the way we see the world." —Heidi Seaborn, author of Give a Girl Chaos
"Powerful and urgent, this is truly a book for our time: It teases beauty out of ugliness; it shows the courage of everyday survival; it creates wholeness out of fragments."
—Sue William Silverman, author of How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences
"The Part That Burns proves that life isn’t lived in a linear way. Girlhood and womanhood can exist simultaneously, our former selves meeting our present selves. Ouellette’s writing is ablaze with a burnished beauty." —Michele Filgate, author and editor of What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About
"Jeannine Ouellette has gifted an entrancing and courageous story to those who have ever felt forced to silence memories of childhood sexual abuse. This is a story about giving voice to all the pieces of one’s life, rendered with devastating beauty, heart, and artistry."
—Diane Zinna, author of The All-Night Sun
Interviews + Reviews of The Part That Burns:
"A textured remembrance of a traumatic childhood that also offers affecting moments of beauty."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
—Megan Vered, The Rumpus
—Amy Eaton, Hippocampus Magazine
—Jody Keisner, Brevity's Nonfiction Blog
—Marion Winik, Star-Tribune
—Mary Ann Grossman, Pioneer Press
—Lynette Lamb, Minnesota Alumni Association
—Shauna Gilligan, Heavy Feather Review
—Bianca Cockrell, Lit Pub
—Lynn Goodwin, Story Circle
—Deborah Kalb, Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb
—Audrey Arnold, Swenson Book Development
—Cristina Deptula, Lois Lane Investigates: Authors