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This memoir is an unflinching witness of what it means to be homeless, mentally ill, and addicted in America - and to love someone who is all of those things. Fort Unicorn is, more than anything else, a vivid and tender portrait of people who are too often invisible to society.

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A retired boxer sets out in search of her daughter, Shyloh, an addict living with mental illness on the streets of San Diego. In Fort Unicorn and the Duchess of Knothing, Nelson tries desperately to find – and save – her first-born, delving into the roots of mental illness, addiction, and the meaning of unconditional love.


This memoir is at once spare, raw, heartbreaking and lovely. The stories are unique and yet familiar for anyone impacted by substance use disorder which, at this point, is all of us. Fort Unicorn is a gift to the world, because it reminds us of the humanity in every person struggling with addiction.


Nora Hertel

Journalist and the founder of The Optimist,

a digital news startup in Minnesota. 


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about the author
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About the Author

Andrea Nelson lives and coaches boxing in Madison, Wisconsin. When she’s not in the gym training her boxers, you can find Andrea out tending her gardens, chickens, and bees, or running the nearby trails.


She shares life with her partner, James.


book signings/Q&A

Upcoming Events

  • Oct 26, 2023, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
    Dwight Foster Public Library, 209 Merchants Ave, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538, USA
    Please join author, Andrea Nelson, for a candid discussion of her memoir, Fort Unicorn and the Duchess of Knothing.
  • Feb 12, 2023, 12:00 PM – Feb 13, 2023, 2:00 PM
    San Diego, Warwick's 7812 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
  • Feb 11, 2023, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
    Pacific Beach Taylor Branch Library, 4275 Cass St, San Diego, CA 92109, USA
    Please join me for a sharing of this labor of love and discussion, as we dive into the tough topics at the heart of this story- addiction and mental illness, trying to save someone who doesn't want to be saved, and loving unconditionally.
  • Feb 02, 2023, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
    Mystery To Me, 1863 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711, USA
    Please join Doug Moe and author Andrea Nelson for a Q&A and short reading of her new book, Fort Unicorn and the Duchess of Knothing.
  • Dec 08, 2022, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
    Madison, 402 W Lakeside St, Madison, WI 53715, USA
    Please join author, Andrea Nelson, for a short reading from her new book, Fort Unicorn and the Duchess of Knothing. Q&A and book signing afterward.
  • Nov 12, 2022, 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
    Madison, Connections Counseling 5005 University Ave #100, Madison, WI 53705, USA
    Please join author, Andrea Nelson, to celebrate the release of her new book. There will be Q&A moderated by award winning author, Matt Geiger, followed by a book signing. Andrea is looking forward to sharing this labor of love with you.


Thank you for reaching out.
I will make every effort to reply to messages within a day or two.
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