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Publisher's Summary

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.

©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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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.