A bold and profound work by Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a personal and critical meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression and racism in North America.
In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight and understanding to the ongoing legacy of colonialism. What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language--both figurative and literal? How does white privilege operate in different contexts? How do we navigate the painful contours of mental illness in loved ones without turning them into their sickness? How does colonialism operate on the level of literary criticism?
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is Alicia Elliott's attempt to answer these questions and more. In the process, she engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, writing and representation. Elliott makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political--from overcoming a years-long history with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft dinner to how systematic oppression is linked to depression in Native communities. With deep consideration and searing prose, Elliott extends far beyond her own experiences to provide a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present and a powerful tool for a better future.
ALICIA ELLIOTT is a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River living in Brantford, Ontario, with her husband and child. Her writing has been published by The Malahat Review, The Butter, Room, Grain, The New Quarterly, CBC, The Globe and Mail, Vice, Maclean's, Today's Parent and Reader's Digest, among others. She's currently Creative Nonfiction Editor at The Fiddlehead, Associate Nonfiction Editor at Little Fiction | Big Truths, and a consulting editor with The New Quarterly. Her essay, "A Mind Spread Out on the Ground" won Gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2017, and another of her essays, "On Seeing and Being Seen: Writing With Empathy" was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2018. She was the 2017-2018 Geoffrey and Margaret Andrew Fellow at UBC, and was chosen by Tanya Talaga to receive the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Prize in 2018. Her short story "Unearth" has been selected by Roxane Gay to appear in Best American Short Stories 2018. Alicia is also presently working on a manuscript of short fiction.
"A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a tour de force. . . . Tuscarora writer Alicia Elliott takes her place among essayists such as [Roxane] Gay and [Samantha] Irby, infusing intimate details of her own life with sociopolitical analysis and biting wit. . . . In this collection, the particular structure of the personal essay—beginning with the experience of the writer and then weaving in threads of related material—is at its finest." —The Globe and Mail
"Exceptional essays as arresting as her title. . . . Elliott ranges over a wide canvas. She tackles the vexed question of identity, both personal and political, powerfully linking larger questions of Indigenous life—from the residential school legacy to the loss of languages—to the unfolding of her own life. In forthright prose, in a format . . . that should make it difficult for non-Indigenous Canadians to ignore, she also links past and present, laying out how the colonial legacy still shapes contemporary lives, Indigenous and non-Indigenous." —Maclean's
"Elliott is fearless here in revealing her own encounters with mental illness and family trauma. But these are not chapters of autobiography. They're meant as lenses through which author and reader can view what would otherwise be too vast to take in at once: the ongoing cultural catastrophe Indigenous people have experienced under colonialism." —The Georgia Straight
"Elliott's writing is equally fearless as she reflects on intimate details from her life, like her mother's struggles with bipolar disorder and her own teenaged motherhood, and racism within the Canadian judicial system and the links between suicide within Indigenous communities and colonialism. Treading on these heavy subjects, Elliott remains inquisitive and insightful, while never shying away from biting humour." —NOW
"Elliott takes a raw, fierce, deep-dive into the lasting legacy of colonialism in Canada." —The Hill Times
"This book is hard, vital medicine. It is a dance of survival and cultural resurgence. Above all, it is breathtakingly contemporary Indigenous philosophy, in which the street is also part of the land, and the very act of thinking is conditioned by struggles for justice and well-being." —Warren Cariou, author of Lake of the Prairies
"These essays are of fiercest intelligence and courageous revelation. Here, colonialism and poverty are not only social urgencies, but violence felt and fought in the raw of the everyday, in embodied life and intimate relations. This is a stunning, vital triumph of writing." —David Chariandy, author of Brother
"Wildly brave and wholly original, Alicia Elliot is the voice that rouses us from the mundane, speaks political poetry and brings us to the ceremony of every day survival. Her words remind us to carry both our weapons and our medicines, to hold both our strength and our open, weeping hearts. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is what happens when you come in a good way to offer prayer, and instead, end up telling the entire damn truth of it all." —Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves
"A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a new lens on Indigenous Canadian literature." —Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries
"We need to clone Alicia Elliott because the world needs more of this badass writer. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground showcases her peculiar alchemy, lighting the darkest corners of racism, classism, sexism with her laser-focused intellect and kind-hearted soul-searching. A fresh and revolutionary cultural critic alternately witty, vulnerable and piercing." —Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift
"The future of CanLit is female, is Indigenous—is Alicia Elliott. I anticipate this book to be featured on every 'best of' and award list in 2019, and revered for years to come." —Vivek Shraya, author of I’m Afraid of Men and even this page is white
"In A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Elliott invites readers into her unceded mind and heart, taking us on a beautiful, incisive and punk rock tour of Tuscarora brilliance. Elliott's voice is fire with warmth, light, rage and endless transformation." —Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost
"Alicia Elliott has gifted us with an Indigenous woman's coming of age story, told through engagingly thoughtful, painfully poignant and enraging essays on race, love and belonging. With poetic prose and searing honesty, she lays bare what it is like to grow up Indigenous and exist in a country proud of its tolerance, but one that has proven to be anything but. She opens eyes and captures hearts, leading you by the hand to see our fractured world through her eyes. Alicia is exactly the voice we need to hear now." —Tanya Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers
"Incisive. That's the word I keep coming back to. A Mind Spread out on the Ground is incredibly incisive. Alicia Elliot slices through the sometimes complicated, often avoided issues affecting so many of us in this place now called Canada. She is at once political, personal, smart, funny, global and, best of all, divinely human. Necessary. That's the other word I keep thinking about. In every chapter, she manages to find the perfect word and the precise argument needed—I found myself saying 'yes, yes, that is exactly it' more than once. I am so grateful for her work." —Katherena Vermette, author of The Break
"A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is an astonishing book of insightful and affecting essays that will stay with you long after the final page." —Zoe Whittall, author of The Best Kind of People