Her memoir, The Part That Burns, shatters the silence on childhood sexual abuse and its long aftermath while celebrating the author's ultimate reclamation of her own humanity in all its wildness. The Part That Burns was a 2021 Kirkus Best 100 Indie Book and a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award. In women's literature she’s received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Oullette's essays and fiction appear widely in literary journals including Los Angeles Review of Books, Narrative, Master's Review, North American Review, and more, as well as in her popular Writing in the Dark newsletter. She teaches writing at the University of Minnesota and through the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, Catapult and Elephant Rock, a creative writing program, she founded in 2012. She's working on her first novel.
During this episode, we talked about Jeannine’s growing up years and the craft perspective of writing her memoir The Part That Burns. Her material weaves in Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, the botany of the tumbleweed, and jackalopes to serve as metaphor. We discussed her healing including therapy which was helpful and how going to support groups for child sexual abuse groups when her trauma re-surfaced was not what she needed at that time. She worked with Dorothy Allison at Tin House Summer Writing Workshop and realized she had a book on her hands. We talked about James Pennebaker’s social psychology work using dialogue, turning scene material over and examining it from a variety of different directions. She reviewed how making something beautiful out of bad things alters you. We talked about how she found an indie press publisher for The Part That Burns using less is more techniques when writing about childhood sexual abuse and how traditional publishers shied away from her writing because of the harm done to a child. We discussed how her ten-year career as a Waldorf teacher influenced her new novel that she is currently at work on. She also touched on how memory is fallible when writing memoir. We revealed how writing material can be tough on our bodies and relationships can sometimes be fractured as a result.