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Alicia Elliott on telling the truth through the lens of fiction

By Kobo • November 29, 2023Kobo in Conversation Podcast

"When you go through something where someone can label you as 'crazy' or 'insane' you're automatically considered an unreliable narrator. I knew that if I were to write this through the nonfiction lens I would be fighting that assumption.

And so it made more sense to do this through the lens of fiction because then there's an understanding that everyone in a sense is an unreliable narrator."

Michael spoke with Mohawk writer and editor, Alicia Elliott, author of an award-winning book of essays, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, and a new novel, And Then She Fell. It is the story of a young woman named Alice experiencing the stress of new motherhood, feeling isolated in Toronto, which feels far away, culturally more than physically, from where she grew up on Six Nations. There she's trying to carve out time for writing and keeping up appearances as the wife of a rising academic star.

And Then She Fell by Alicia Elliott

A mind-bending, gripping novel about Native life, motherhood and mental health that follows a young Mohawk woman who discovers that the picture-perfect life she always hoped for may have horrifying consequences.

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Alicia found encouragement and inspiration in this Danish novel about a woman experiencing something like Alice's story:

"I wanted to see how other writers had portrayed psychosis and things like that in fiction. There's a book called The Faces by Tove Ditlevsen. It's about a mother who falls into psychosis and is committed to a mental hospital—and then she comes out. [...] Later in the book there's an element of faces [...] Seeing how she did that was great."

On the writers that Alicia most hopes to evoke whenever she sits down to write fiction:

"I love Eden Robinson's work, particularly the Trickster series where she's dealing with modern indigenous characters who are struggling with these ancient monsters and magical beings. [...] I get a lot of inspiration from her: she's so funny and so clever. I can't say enough good things about her writing. She's just brilliant."

"There's an element of wonder to all of Heather O'Neill's work that makes you feel like everything is just a little bit more magical. Even when she's talking about something happening in the 1800s in the poorest part of Montreal. I think that element is something I really admire in her work and hope to use that to some effect in my own work."

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