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A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

Written by: Alicia Elliott
Narrated by: Alicia Elliott
Length: 6 hrs and 36 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.8 out of 5 stars (187 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Number One National Best Seller

Shortlisted for The 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2019 BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL • CBC • CHATELAINE • QUILL & QUIRE • THE HILL TIMES • POP MATTERS

A bold and profound meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression, and racism in North America from award-winning Haudenosaunee writer Alicia Elliott.

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 into the ongoing legacy of colonialism. She engages with such wide-ranging topics as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrifcation, writing, and representation, and in the process makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political - from overcoming a years-long battle 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 systemic oppression is directly linked to health problems in Native communities. 

With deep consideration and searing prose, Elliott provides a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present and a powerful tool for a better future.

©2019 Alicia Elliott (P)2019 Doubleday Canada

What the critics say

"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)

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What listeners say about A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

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  • Overall
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Profoundly vulnerable and robustly analytical

Elliott expertly weaves her personal experiences, social and literary critiques, legacies of systemic violence and their contemporary continuations into a profound discussion that simultaneously holds white supremacy accountable while generously offering space for personal growth and ideally - deeper reconciliation and decolonizing thought. The work is personally vulnerable while robust and well-researched. The links she draws are insightful and very relevant to current events and politics. I personally really benefitted from the essay: “On Forbidden Rooms and Intentional Forgetting” and thought it offered fresh perspectives and analysis on dealing with trauma and accepting the validity of whatever process you choose for yourself to do so. This is necessary reading for everyone, and especially North Americans (Canadians in particular). Very timely work in the #MeToo moment, and so important in contexts of ever-growing far right politics and the unfinished work of reconciliation in Canada.

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Changed my Brain with the love and intelligence

This book is so eloquently written, so devastating and moving. It helped me feel more connected to my past and to help me consider what it means to be indigenous in the present day. It filled me with the fire of my ancestors. I'll read anything she's ever written.

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Every person in Canada should read this

There isn't a single settler in "Canada" who doesn't need to read this--NOW! Extraordinary read!

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A great read! Thought provoking!

Even though I am a settler I could relate to a lot of feelings about family that Elliot shared. In my attempt to understand life in Canada from the indigenous perspective, Elliott led me to some really profound answers! She left me with a sense that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface on what it means to be marginalized, dismissed, and abused as an indigenous person. Thank you Ms. Elliott for giving me a few more pieces to this ever-growing puzzle I call my quest for truth on what the “real Canada” looks like.

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Purchase this book!! You won’t be disappointed.

Alicia Elliot beautifully weaves her personal experiences and insights through themes of mental health, inter-generational trauma, colonization and decolonization, capitalism, racism, patriarchy, art and Indigenous sovereignty. She’s brilliant and a delight to listen to. You will learn SO much and hopefully re-evaluate your perspectives and assumptions about what is means to be; white, settler, Indigenous, and mixed race human on Turtle Island.

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Good read

This is a book I would recommend to all Canadians. It’s what we need to know and we’re never taught.

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Loved it!

Every North American should hear Alicia's words. She speaks to her own story, but also that of many other Indigeneous and BIPOC community members.

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A. Roy

I enjoyed these essays very much. The conversational and sometimes academic tone were thought provoking and needed for readers in 2020. I’m looking forward to more by Elliott.

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If you're human, you should read this book!

Loved this book! Alicia Elliott discusses complicated issues and brings a new clarity to them. She makes you think about old problems in new ways. I have learned more about my own privileges and considered colonialism in ways I never had before. I will endeavour to keep learning and will look for ways that I can make change. Elliott's writing is precise and intelligent and her narration flawless. Thank you, Alicia, for sharing your brilliant mind and for opening mine.

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definitly an eye opener

she describes things in a way that makes sense describing behavior many have done. our bad habit of "its everyone's fault but my own" mantality in a new light. our culture is very much set up to this and I happy to have new insight into bad thought process that were described in the book. now I can hopefully break these thought process.