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Melanie book top

In Surviving In Spirit, Mélanie Berliet explores how witnessing her older sister’s prolonged struggle with alcoholism and eventual death informed her own unprecedented choices in life and love.

What prompts a young woman to abandon the safe bounds of convention for the unknown? At first, all Mélanie understood was that she’d lost her sense of what ‘supposed to’ meant. And that her older sister Céline was sick.

While it’s tough to understand what leads a person into addiction–to witness someone you love kind of kill herself–the truth is that you can learn from it. By the time Céline died at age 30, she was Kermit The Frog green and she vomited blood more frequently than she was able to eat. In less than a decade, she had gone from summa cum laude Columbia graduate to NYU PhD student to unemployed, rambling, stumbling drunk saddled with a cirrhotic liver beyond repair. By the time Céline died, Mélanie was no longer a Miss Goody Two Shoes from a waspy Connecticut suburb trotting down the sensible path. She was an adult who had abandoned a secure job on Wall Street to establish a career as a writer committed to exploring fascinating subcultures.

As Céline’s illness escalated, you see, a basic lesson crept up on Mélanie: Life is beautifully short, and fragile as hell. Life happens. Gradually, Mélanie stopped agonizing over what she was supposed to do/think/know/read/listen to/watch/feel, or who she was supposed to be/befriend/love/like/learn from. So she pitched projects that sounded crazy and/or dangerous to most, but which gave her a thrill and helped her establish a career as an immersive journalist. She grew some balls, so to speak, after freeing herself from caring about what others might think.

The devastating beauty of what happened to Céline forced Mélanie to question who she is. However unwittingly, in dying, Céline empowered her younger sister to take risks–to live. This is their story.

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our-philosophy-is

Mélanie’s writing is honest and thought provoking, but also entertaining. Without a doubt, she keeps it interesting.

JARED COHEN, Director of Google Ideas, Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Author of The New Digital Age

articles-about-the-book

Articles about the Book

elle
Cosmopolitan
Thought-Catalog
xo jane
Blackbook
Fabulous
her campus
Modern-Loss
Cosmopolitan
Modern-Loss
Lucinda Literary
book-review

Melanie watched her sister fight a long and painful battle with alcoholism. The tragic experience forced her to radically change her own life.

Elle UK

why-im-naked

Why I’m Naked

While brainstorming artwork options for Surviving In Spirit’s cover, it hit me that posing in the buff was the only way to express the sense of vulnerability that overpowered me the second my 30-year-old sister died, on April 5, 2009. To this day, “naked” is the one word that sums up the very specific way I feel—lonely, helpless, sad, small, accepting, relieved, perplexed, grateful, and so very human all at once—whenever I think about Céline. Nudity is raw, untouched, and defenseless. It is also beautiful.

Intent on conveying my deepest, sincerest emotions, I enlisted a world-renowned artist, Michel Tcherevoff (who happens to be my boyfriend’s father), to photograph me stripped of clothing and any pretense. The video below is a behind-the-scenes look at our collaboration. I also wrote about the experience for Cosmopolitan Magazine.

 


 

In my view, the book cover created using Michel’s best photo (below, at left) is tasteful and poignant. Unfortunately, industry insiders advised me that prudish online retailers like Apple and Amazon wouldn’t see it that way. The risk of going with a provocative cover was that conservative booksellers would refuse to promote Surviving In Spirit. Absurd, you say? Agreed. But since my goal is to reach as many potential readers as possible, I couldn’t risk losing the support of major distributors. That’s why Surviving In Spirit’s official cover (below, at right) is a compelling but safe design featuring one of my favorite old Berliet family portraits. Luckily, the-cover-that-never-was can live here on this website, for the enjoyment of anyone who isn’t offended by the naked female form.

surviving in spirit

 

third-review

Inspired by her sister’s untimely death to buck convention and lead a full life, Mélanie’s story is uniquely tragic and will resonate with you long after you’ve finished it.

MEGHAN McCAIN, author of America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom and Dirty Sexy Politics

book-facts

Book Facts

Writing a book is hard. Publishing a book is even harder. When I first met the Director of Thought Catalog’s Book Division, I had just completed a round of meetings with editors at traditional publishing houses set up by my literary agent at WME, each of which left me feeling more disheartened than the last. None of the conventional folks seemed open to any approach that deviated from their go-to formulas. As it happens, none of them really wanted to publish my book, either. Luckily, Thought Catalog could offer me the speed, expertise, and creative freedom I needed to feel excited about tackling this project. Below are a few fun facts about the long, difficult, rewarding process of writing Surviving In Spirit.

376

Pages Rewritten

284

 Days Writing

65

 sleepless Nights

0

 Regrets

second-review

Be very excited to read about Melanie’s adventures with addiction and married men since it’s probably the safest way to experience both.

Joel Stein, TIME columnist and author of Man Made

about-the-author

About the Author

melanie berliet

Mélanie Berliet (est. Charlottesville, Virginia, 1981) is a New York City based writer and producer whose work is best described as immersive, experiential, or gonzo journalism. Berliet specializes in going undercover to infiltrate fascinating subcultures so she can report on her insider experiences. So far, she has taken turns as a naked body sushi model, a drug dealer, a sugar baby, a phone sex operator, and more.

The intrepid writer’s work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Elle, Cosmopolitan, The New York Observer, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Esquire, Playboy, Thought Catalog, and other major publications. Many of Berliet’s stories have gone viral, and she is frequently invited to discuss her work and her unique investigative approach on national television (20/20, The Insider, Raising McCain). As a producer, Berliet consulted on MTV’s hit unscripted show, The Buried Life. She also creates original programming for both the web and television.

But none of the above PR-friendly word barf says much about who Mélanie is as a person. For the billions completely uninterested in the topic of Mélanie as a person, that’s all well and good. But Mélanie’s ego won’t allow her to discount the possibility that there’s at least one human out there aching to know more. In the name of revealing something you might not already know from reading her memoir and all of the first-person stories chronicling her journalistic endeavors, here are Mélanie’s responses to the Proust Questionnaire.

fourth-review

Mélanie’s writing is funny, sexy, and intelligent.

BRIAN DONOVAN, author of best-selling Kindle Single Not A Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters

melanies-tweets

Mélanie’s Tweets

  • @_marisadonnelly @LaurenJG5 it's never too late for kind words:)

    Melanie Berliet about 17 hours ago
  • @mirandali awwww thnx!!!

    Melanie Berliet about 23 hours ago
  • @LaurenJG5 you are too kind!!! Seriously! Means a lot. Back in action tomorrow, slightly older and wiser...as we all are every day!

    Melanie Berliet about 1 days ago
  • @beccamartin3 you are the sweetest!!! And it really has been a great day of awesomeness plus weirdness!

    Melanie Berliet about 1 days ago
  • "Garbage election" is easily one of my favorite phrases ever! Love a lady strong enough to speak her mind like @MeghanMcCain

    Melanie Berliet about 2 days ago
blackbook-magazine

Gripping from the first page, beautifully written, and thought provoking throughout, Surviving In Spirit is a dazzling memoir, an ultimately uplifting story and a truly valuable read.

Blackbook Magazine

contact

Connect with the Author

Dear readers and anyone else who’s stumbled across this website. Don’t be bashful. I would absolutely love to hear from you—whether you’re an Internet troll intent on disparaging my work from the confines of a cubby in your high school library, a toothless fugitive in California, or an admiring fan with a knack for flattery. So select your digital channel of choice and reach out to me already! I’m waiting for you. Seriously. Still waiting…