indigenous authors, Reviews

Review: A Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott

Synopsis: 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, gentrification, 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.

I’m going to say it right now – this book might be my top book of 2020. I finished it and immediately wanted to re-read it. I might re-read it like… next week. Who knows! It was one of those books that really hit me to my core, and even though I am not Indigenous, I felt that I could relate to some of the issues that Elliot raises throughout the book (mostly her discussion of having difficult relationships with her parents and family). The other issues that I couldn’t relate to caused me to open my eyes to the privilege that I have, and how lucky I am to have access to things like reliable running water. In addition to how connected I felt to the topics, the book is also written beautifully, and I am so excited to get my hands on other books that Elliot has written.

The book itself is written in a series of essays, dealing with issues such as head lice, racism, Indigenous identity, weight, depictions of Indigenous people in literature, and the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, fat-phobia, and so much more. It felt like this book covered everything, but nothing felt forced. Elliot speaks from a place of personal experience, but is able to expand that to show how these experiences are due in part to a system of oppression felt by Indigenous people both in Canada and in the United States. For example, her reliance on sugar as a coping mechanism goes back to her childhood in poverty, and how sweets were seen as bringing happiness as a treat from her parents. However she also touches on how on Indigenous land (and by extension, in less privileged neighbourhoods) fresh food and nutritious ingredients are much harder to find or more expensive, leading to marginalized groups only having access to less healthy foods. Not only do we get her personal experience, which creates a personal connection for readers to these issues, but we also gain a better understanding of the systemic conditions that create the issues.

The entire book is like this – an incredible exploration of trauma, oppression that she has faced, and the challenges that we must face head on if we want our society to be able to move forward and become more supportive and open. It is gorgeously written, and I highly HIGHLY suggest that everyone pick up this book and read it.

My book and my baby succulents!

The final chapter of the book really hit me hard. In it, Elliot details her troubled relationship with her father, as both as abuser and someone who she loves deeply, and talks about how their relationship evolves throughout time. Elliot poses questions in this final chapter, asking the reader to reflect on their life and try to expand their views of things. This was a really interesting activity for me, as it left me with more to consider in relation to one of my own relationships. The questions focus on our complicity in a system of oppression, and they pose an alternative view to situations that we may idly take part in, and I really liked that.

Overall, the book was incredible and I without hesitation gave it a 5/5. I cannot recommend it enough to everyone, as it is both beautifully written, incredibly relevant to today’s issues, and is a great read. Please, if you buy any books within the next few weeks, consider adding this one to your cart! I promise you won’t regret it!

That’s all for now ducks, I’ll see you soon!
~ Mon

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