A national bestseller in Canada, Alicia Elliott explores her life spent between Indigenous and white communities and the ongoing effects of personal, intergenerational, and colonial traumas that she and so many Native people have experienced.
Her debut essay collection navigates the deeply personal and that which all settlers in Canada and the U.S. should already know—their implication with racism—with depth, wit and never-ending heart. This is not an easy collection to read ... Yet, Elliott’s first collection also—as most inspections of the very painful do—brims with sharp humour and a love that radiates off the page ... [in] the last essay...the reader cannot distance themselves from direct address. Here, Elliott asks us to review the previous essays, to fully implicate ourselves in this narrative of colonial Canada, colonial America, and the colonized mind. In a word, that feat is, exceptional. How we readers react in our own minds and our active lives dictates our engagement in the process that is decolonial love and antiracism; Alicia Elliott has shown us her mind and life and process in stark, beautiful detail.
... she tells the impassioned, wrenching story of the mental health crisis within her own family and community ... Elliott uses the symbol of the Two Row Wampum—a beaded belt whose rows of purple and white represent the parallel, amicable paths the Haudenosaunee and the Europeans initially agreed to take—as a moving metaphor for the love between herself and her white husband (and the aforementioned father of her child), Mike. Unfortunately, she only scratches the surface of this fascinating history ... Throughout the book Elliott sketches a broad-strokes map of Native brokenness ... Midway, you think that you’ve read the worst that has happened to this author, but the floor drops yet again. Her book is a searing cry to stanch the bleeding.
Elliott's essays...[are] elegantly written, constructed with a fine attention to style while remaining rooted in a profoundly honest, unalloyed anger ... Elliott also delivers stand-out critiques of racism and tokenism in literature, and the narrow and stereotypical caricatures which colonial literary circuits produce ... While her personal essays are profoundly moving and deeply important, Elliott is at her best in these critical essays, drawing on Indigenous and anti-colonial analysis to pry open innovative insights on creative endeavors like literature and photography, and the ways in which they aid and abet the political operations of colonialism when allowed to operate unchallenged ... Innovative and insightful, Elliott's work reveals an important dedication not just to content but to style, an often neglected element in today's burgeoning marketplace of personal essay collections.