I’ve said on-record that All the Way by Jordin Tootoo would be my desert island book. If I was stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere with one book from the over seventy-five that I have reviewed for the NNSL Media, I would pick Tootoo’s memoir because I know that I can read that book at any point in my life and learn something new and vital from it.
Mind Over Matter: Hard-Won Battles on the Road to Hope, Tootoo’s second book, carries that torch. Tootoo continues to share his life on the page with blunt honesty and an astonishing depth of feeling, a trait he partially contributes to his collaborator, Stephen Brunt.
Tootoo’s first book All the Way: My Life on Ice was, like it said on the tin, largely about hockey, Tootoo’s role in it, and his journey to being the first Inuk player in the NHL. Mind over Matter opens the floodgates. This book has everything, from hockey to family to life lessons, and even a story about being a peewee hockey player in a tournament in Yellowknife. As always, there is a specific kind of joy gained when reading about the places and people you’re familiar with, which is why I love reading books by people from the Territories.
I just about cried when Tootoo highlighted a letter he received from a young Indigenous girl in hockey who had written to him after reading his first book. Her words, as well as Tootoo’s own experiences, explains how future-generation oriented Tootoo is, often repeating the sentiment put it towards the kids. Your time, your attention, your energy, your money, and your love. Tootoo also really champions resilience and mental toughness, and highlights the importance of counselling in gaining those qualities particularly as a man and an Indigenous person, both groups being ones that Tootoo states often seek less help professionally and interpersonally. This isolating effect is exacerbated in small communities and Indigenous communities, like Tootoo’s own hometown Rankin Inlet, where unspoken rules keep people from sharing what they experience at home and with their family publicly. He really reframes standing up to your family as standing up for your family, an act that is all about recognizing when change has to happen either on your end or theirs.
Tootoo thanks Brunt, who co-authored both All the Way and Mind over Matter, within the body of this book and in his acknowledgements. I’ve already joked at this point about how many sports biographies I read as someone who doesn’t watch or play sports, and I have been finding that this Canadian sports journalist has an impressive bibliography himself. After working with Tootoo on All the Way, he has also contributed to Christine Sinclair and Bryan Trottier’s books, among others, before joining Tootoo again for the hockey player’s second book.
This book was inspiring, providing tools for recognizing alcoholism and abuse in yourself and others as well as a perspective of sobriety as an every-day commitment, rather than framing addiction as something solved by the abrupt and often traumatic experience of rehab. Part toolkit, Mind over Matter highlights the need for communication — how to put your experiences into words and not let social shame, family ties, or unspoken rules stop you from getting the help you need. This book also acknowledges that recognizing that you need help is a skill in-and-of-itself, one that we will continue to develop throughout our lives.