The Pink Institution

A novel by Selah Saterstrom

April 1, 2004 • 5 x 7.5 • 140 pages • 978-1-56689-155-4

Beautiful and violent, spare and ominous, this wholly original novel explodes mythologies of Southern femininity.

In a multigenerational family saga that captures the rich beauty and passionate despair of the land and its inhabitants, The Pink Institution is a riveting, visceral novel written in a style that elegantly unites poetic prose with historic photographs and texts. It is also a testament to the legacy that war, violence, abuse, and poverty have wrought upon the Deep South. As we follow four generations of determined and relentless Mississippi women from their run-down, post-Civil War plantations to their modern-day trailer parks, the impoverished decay of the Deep South expresses itself through their bloodlines in a haunting reenactment of the past.

About the Author

Selah Saterstrom is the author of the novels Slab, The Meat and Spirit Plan, and The Pink Institution, all published by Coffee House Press. Widely published and anthologized, she also curates Madame Harriette Presents, an occasional series. She teaches and lectures across the United States and is the director of Creative Writing at the University of Denver.

Born in 1974, Saterstrom grew up in Natchez, Jackson, and Pass Christian, Mississippi. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, her Masters in Theology and Literature from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and her MFA from Goddard College in Vermont. She is the editor of Soul Collections, an anthology of prose and poetry written by at-risk teenagers in North Carolina and her work has recently appeared in Big Bridge, the Café Review, Fourteen Hills, Tarpaulin Sky, the American Book Review, Ellipsis, Cranbrook Magazine, and elsewhere. The Meat and Spirit Plan is her second novel and a portion of the author’s proceeds will be donated to Our Voice, a nonprofit crisis intervention agency serving Western North Carolina and to the Kim Duckett Fund for Women.

A former instructor at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, Saterstrom currently lives in Colorado and is on the faculty of the University of Denver’s Creative Writing Program.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“Saterstrom writes with a poet’s economy and eye for visceral detail, collapsing into a mere 140 pages a four-generation history of a Southern family bedeviled by alcoholism, poverty, racism, violence, and mental illness. Her spareness is a mercy. The story she tells is brutal, almost impossible to take; at the same time, her exquisite, cut-to-the-quick language makes this book impossible to put down.” —HuffPost

The Pink Institution is a book to be savored like a feast in the middle of nowhere—rich, strange, fragmentary and yet utterly compelling. Selah Saterstrom has managed to gather influences from visual art, photography, music, captions, footnotes, directories, family histories and weave them into a book of marvels and mysteries. Reader, go slow. This is a dream.” —Michael Klein

“Happy families may all be alike, but even unhappy families have started to look pretty similar these days. Then there’s the family created in Selah Saterstrom’s multigenerational bildungsroman about America and the South, and women and men, and madness and whatever desperate things we do in order to, maybe, for a while, survive. Selah Saterstrom has a daring, artful voice. I am confident The Pink Institution is only the first of many astoundingly beautiful, brutally disturbing works of art.” —Rebecca Brown