A Mind Spread Out on the Ground (Paperback)
Alicia Elliot is a Mohwak woman who split her childhood between upstate NY and a reservation in Canada, now living in Brantford, Ontario. How and why she moves between these places is the thread that ties the collection together. The essays she writes are deeply personal and radically anti-colonial; Elliot is as blunt about her struggles with mental health as she is succinct in illustrating how the historic treatment of Indigenous Peoples has created a world that is openly hostile to her and her loved ones.
Her writing style is vivid and affecting– the arguments are structured like concentric circles rather than being strictly linear– moving toward and then away from a core theme. I often find that essay collections about personal topics can struggle to stick their landing, but Elliot makes bold, creative choices in her final essay that still resonate in my brain.— From Our Favorite Books of 2022
The Mohawk phrase for depression can be roughly translated to "a mind spread out on the ground." In this urgent and visceral work, Alicia Elliott explores how apt a description that is for the ongoing effects of personal, intergenerational, and colonial traumas she and so many Native people have experienced.
Elliott's deeply personal writing details a life spent between Indigenous and white communities, a divide reflected in her own family, and engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, art, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, and representation. Throughout, she makes thrilling connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political.
A national bestseller in Canada, this updated and expanded American edition helps us better understand legacy, oppression, and racism throughout North America, and offers us a profound new way to decolonize our minds.
"Elliott perfectly captures the modern indigenous experience ... a gripping read." —Christian Allaire, Vogue
"A tour de force. . . . 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. . . . " —The Globe and Mail
"A new lens on North American Indigenous literature." —Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries
"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
“A beautiful, incisive, and punk rock tour of Mohawk brilliance.” —Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author of This Accident of Being Lost
"Elliott’s intelligence and inquisitive reflection are humbling; her book should be required reading."—Booklist
"An instant must-read... Elliott’s prose is beautiful, and her insight into the deeply personal and its interconnectedness with the wider world makes this book readable, infuriating, and essential."—LitHub
"An impressive debut from a welcome new voice in Native letters."—Kirkus
"Elliott is fierce and unapologetic." —Toronto Star
"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
"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." —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
"Treading on these heavy subjects, Elliott remains inquisitive and insightful, while never shying away from biting humour."—NOW
"A must read." —PopMatters
"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
"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
"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
"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. Alicia is exactly the voice we need to hear now." —Tanya Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers
"Elliott’s intelligence and inquisitive reflection are humbling; her book should be required reading." --Booklist