​Advanced review copies of


Aren't they pretty?! I'll just be over here, drooling. 



From Publisher's Weekly
Book Deals: Week of August 1, 2016
By Rachel Deahl | 
Jul 29, 2016

Fontaine Takes ‘Freak’ to FSG
Jenna Johnson, in her first acquisition at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, took North American rights, at auction, to Tessa Fontaine’s debut memoir, Freak. The book, which Trident Media Group’s Ellen Levine sold, chronicles the author’s experience as a new performer in a traveling sideshow, where she did everything from swallow swords to play a character called the Electric Woman. The author melds tales about circus life, FSG said, with her discovery of “her mother’s catastrophic illness, and her search for the possibilities of life and hope after heartbreak.”

​"In the opening pages of this fascinating memoir, first-time author Fontaine learns how to eat fire. This is just one of several “death-defying” feats she learned during her stint with the World of Wonders, “the very last traveling sideshow of its kind.” Intrigued by illusion and danger, Fontaine—a grad student studying writing—accepted a surprising invitation to join the show. Not only did she yearn for adventure but she also hoped to temporarily escape from assisting her mother after her mother suffered a debilitating stroke. Fontaine segues between hospital visits to her mother in California’s Bay Area and the fantastical world of the carnival, where Fontaine learned to handle snakes, swallow swords, free herself from handcuffs, and eventually master the role of “the electric woman,” lighting light bulbs with her tongue. Traveling state and county fairs, Fontaine shares the unusual stories of her fellow carnival workers, all of whom come across as devoted to the exhausting, grueling, yet inspiring work they do each day. Fontaine explores the history of the carnival (e.g., the first incubators were on display in a carnival sideshow in the early 20th century); its pecking order of performers, carnies, and foodies; its humor and dark underbelly. This remarkable, beautifully written memoir explores the depth of mother-daughter love and the courageous acts of overcoming fear and accepting change."

― Publisher's Weekly Starred Review

“A beautiful and ferocious book, The Electric Woman comes packed with fire-eaters and knife-throwers, survivors and caretakers, and yet somehow no marvel is more wondrous than the writing itself. Fontaine's memoir is a brilliant testament to family, grief, love, and the astonishing trick of being―and feeling―alive. I loved every page."

―Annie Hartnett, author of Rabbit Cake

"In The Electric Woman Tessa Fontaine is an escape artist determined to detonate the grim reality of mere existence, taking us on the most original journey I can remember in a recent memoir. As she moves through guises and adventures, she learns how to become the woman her mother loves and the person she didn't think she could be: her own marvelous self."

―George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

“With fearless grace and piercing intensity, Tessa Fontaine juxtaposes the thrill of eating fire with the luminous mystery of her mother’s devastating strokes and harrowing transformations. I have never read a book more tender or more true.”

―Melanie Rae Thon

Excerpts from THE ELECTRIC WOMAN published in earlier iterations 

"Dispatch from the Carnival: And the Low Sky Opens," Hayden's Ferry Review, 2016
(Winner 2016 AWP Intro Journals Award, Nonfiction) 

"The Electric Woman," Autre Magazine, May 26, 2016

"Dispatch from the Carnival #5: Instructions for Losing Your Head," The Rumpus, December 2015 (Nominated for a Pushcart, 2015)

"Dispatch from the Carnival #4: Taking in the Sword," The Rumpus, June 2015
(Nominated for a Pushcart, 2015)

"Dispatch from the Carnival #3: Bloodlust," The Rumpus, April 2014

"Dispatch from the Carnival #2: The Snake Charmer," The Rumpus, November 2013

"Dispatch from the Carnival #1: The Trick is There is No Trick," The Rumpus, July 2013