A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a collection of essays by Alicia Elliott.

Alicia Elliott

(Doubleday Canada)

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. (From Doubleday Canada

Elliott was chosen by Tanya Talaga as the recipient for the 2018 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award.

Why Alicia Elliott wrote A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

"I hope that the book makes people think more critically about how they got to where they are. There's this notion that people are the result of their own actions and to a degree that's true. But there are also ways where you aren't always in control of how you got to where you are.

I hope that the book makes people think more critically about how they got to where they are.- Alicia Elliott

"How parents get to where they are and how does that impact you? How did their views impact how you saw the world? Did the circumstances that their own parents were in affect them — and how did that affect you? I want people to think more critically about circumstances, histories and systems of discrimination and how they bear down upon individuals as opposed to thinking about these things as abstract concepts. 

"When you think about racism, colonialism or transphobia, these are these big words that don't necessarily mean something physical, but I want to be grounded in individual experiences. I want people to think about how they are grounded in their individual experiences."

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.

Interviews with Alicia Elliott

A panel discussion on mental health with Alicia Elliott, David Alexander Robertson and Sarah Leavitt, recorded at Calgary's Imaginarium at Wordfest in October. 24:35
CanLit's lack of diversity isn't news to Alicia Elliott, a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Elliott wrote a column titled, "CanLit is a Raging Dumpster Fire." Months later, she saw a listing for a literary panel at gritLIT, a literary festival in Hamilton, Ontario, that referenced her and her piece, but said she was not invited to appear as a panelist. 7:56
TNC columnist Candy Palmater talks to Shelagh Rogers about three debut books 10:45

More about A Mind Spread Out on the Ground


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