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A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner. When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profa A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner. When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine--growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.


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A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner. When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profa A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner. When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems, 78 essays and intimate family photographs, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine--growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.

30 review for You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Update... AUDIBLE MEMBERS.... this book is on sale for $6 It’s a phenomenal *favorite* audiobook. If you’ve missed it - great price sale today — it’s a forever lifetime memorable listening and very affecting story!!! Sherman Alexie reads it! This is a case of the audiobook being better than his written words alone. Old Review: Audiobook: The intensity The ferociousness The vibrancy The power The effectiveness The aggressiveness and PASSION..........in which Sherman Alexie reads his memoir sizzles-and b Update... AUDIBLE MEMBERS.... this book is on sale for $6 It’s a phenomenal *favorite* audiobook. If you’ve missed it - great price sale today — it’s a forever lifetime memorable listening and very affecting story!!! Sherman Alexie reads it! This is a case of the audiobook being better than his written words alone. Old Review: Audiobook: The intensity The ferociousness The vibrancy The power The effectiveness The aggressiveness and PASSION..........in which Sherman Alexie reads his memoir sizzles-and burns with such force - at times 'just listening' to Alexie speak felt comparable to being in the stands with 150,000 screaming fans at Laguna Seca watching NASCAR drivers. THIS BOOK IS *EVERYTHING* the blurb says it is and 100 times MORE!!! I CRIED ... oh I cried... I swear it's not my fault: SHERMAN ALEXIE ABUSED ME .... HE DID IT TO ME... HE 'made' me cry: meanie!!! I LAUGHED .... I laughed so hard a few times... I'm laughing as I type this just thinking about what I laughed at. This is one - if not - THE - most incredible Memoir-audiobooks I've 'ever' listened to. A bipolar mother with a bipolar son -- is just not enough! Add an alcoholic father... 'murders -in - training'- in the neighborhood... abusers and bullying as common as chewing gum... poverty...... yep: growing up on A reservation in Spokane, Washington.... was like a picnic with apple and berry pie. Dysfunction - complicated - and surviving.... are just a few words that come to mind as I think about the way Alexie wrote this book -AND DELIVERED IT LIKE THE MASTER PERFORMER STORYTELLER HE'S KNOWN FOR. .....Poop like a walrus? ..... An Indian is measured by what they give not by with the keep .....How does one be an atheist at a Spokane Indian funeral? Stay awake for 29 hours and guide your mother to transition. .....Lillian Alexi : Alexie's Mom: she was charismatic and loved attention like a fancy movie star actress according to Sherman Alexi. She slept on a couch for over 40 years.....made beautiful quilts - was a healer - and was as outrageously complex like Alexie himself. Alexie says... HE was the ASSHOLE .....His mother was very hard on him - abusive - mean - ( they did not talk once for a three-year period) - he absorbed her anger, her pain, but also her courage and also her love. She taught him how to survive. Yet.... they did not get along well. His mother helped addicts get clean... she helped many other kids - more than her own. If his mother yelled at OTHER children - they listened. Those other children's mommies wouldn't come attack her for correcting their kids like in today's world either. Lillian was a dictionary-his mother knew more words that had not been spoken for thousands of years. She didn't teach Alexie the tribal language. She told Alexie: "ENGLISH WILL BE YOUR WEAPON". Alexie says....."she was right, she was right, she was right"!!! Alexie's poetry is brilliantly beautiful!!!!! Alexie touches us - shakes us - If profanity is offensive to you -- BEWARE!! Pow Wow .......GOD DAMN EXTRAORDINARY!!!!!! P.S. I'm glad I own this audiobook. I'll definitely listen to it again.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    As a leading voice in Native American literature, works by Sherman Alexie are always a joy to read. Taking biographical events and turning them into fiction, Alexie applies a mix of humor to serious topics, especially when discussing the status of Native American life both on and off of reservations. When I found out that Alexie had penned a memoir titled You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir which paid homage to his mother, I had my curiosity piqued. A raw mix of introspection, poetry, an As a leading voice in Native American literature, works by Sherman Alexie are always a joy to read. Taking biographical events and turning them into fiction, Alexie applies a mix of humor to serious topics, especially when discussing the status of Native American life both on and off of reservations. When I found out that Alexie had penned a memoir titled You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir which paid homage to his mother, I had my curiosity piqued. A raw mix of introspection, poetry, and prose, Alexie's work is an eye opening memoir that is both a joy and painful to read. Sherman Alexie's mother Lillian passed away in 2015 after suffering from Parkinson's disease. The last member of her tribe to fully speak Spokane, Lillian was revered by her entire reservation, her funeral attended by many. She often times supported her family by quilting as her husband was an alcoholic and often went off on binges and left the family for days at a time. The patchwork quilts brought in enough income to pay bills and put food on the table for her children, although it was hardly enough. This lead to a strained relationship with Sherman who wanted even as a child desired more than life on the reservation. By the time of Lillian's diagnosis, Sherman had lived off of the reservation for nearly thirty six years and often supported his mother and sisters financially from afar. As a storyteller, he turned to poetry and other writing as his means of grieving for his mother. Resulting, is this 450 page memoir. Although the memoir is full of Alexie's humor, it is at times tough to read. As a child he suffered from encephalitis which left him prone to seizures, leaving his face malformed and the brunt of teasing and taunting by the rest of the reservation children. Wearing government issued glasses and attending a reservation school where the teachers verbally and physically abused Indian children, Sherman had little opportunity to excel. Bullied his whole life for his looks, by seventh grade he chose to leave the reservation and attend Reardan, a white public school. Once in Reardan, Alexie never looked back, and his lived his entire adult life in Seattle as what he calls an urban Indian. His decision is one reason for his strained relationship with Lillian, who is as Sherman says married to her reservation. Lillian's life had been no picnic either: a child of rape, a teenaged victim of rape who later lost that daughter to a fire, a wife of an alcoholic. Yet, Lillian somehow survived and was viewed as a respected member of her tribe by many, even if the traumatic events early in her life had resulted with a strained at best relationship with her son. Choosing to be with his wife and children as his mother lay dying, Sherman turned to what he knew best as a means for grief support: poetry and story telling. The poems in this memoir can be repetitive at times yet are peppered with Alexie's brand of humor. He pens odes to his mother and includes issues crucial to the future of Native Americans, including their relationship with salmon and alcoholism, which has claimed many of his tribe too soon. Yet, the central focus is Lillian, her tough life, her perseverance, and Sherman's means of grieving for her despite his own medical issues. The sections discussing rape are especially powerful and tough to digest so he diffuses this with comparing Lillian to salmon, a fish revered in Spokane culture. Despite the difficult at times relationship that Sherman and Lillian enjoyed, he appreciated all that she did for him and his siblings and honored her in this memoir. I especially enjoyed his couplet poetry about Lillian's love of quilting, which was both a labor of love and a means of supporting her family. The lines were heartfelt and must have been extremely difficult to write. People turn to different means of grieving. Writer Sherman Alexie turned to writing poetry and prose. Previously I had only read his The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian which is a graphic autobiographical novel detailing his children and decision to attend Reardan High School. The novel was full of self-deprecating humor which had me chuckling at difficult issues. Alexie chooses to diffuse his grief with humor as well. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir is along these same lines of dark humor and was as much of a labor of love as Lillian's quilts. Alexie is indeed a leading Native American voice and it is tough to rate this memoir anything less than 4.5 stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    I was really hesitant to read or listen to You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. For some reason, I thought it would be relentlessly heartbreaking, and it's rare I'm in the mood for memoirs that are focused on sad abusive childhoods. There's plenty of heartbreak in this memoir, but there's a whole lot more to this one that had me loving it from beginning to end. I listened to the audio as read by Alexie and here is what I loved about it in no particular order: -The language, often playful and poetic I was really hesitant to read or listen to You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. For some reason, I thought it would be relentlessly heartbreaking, and it's rare I'm in the mood for memoirs that are focused on sad abusive childhoods. There's plenty of heartbreak in this memoir, but there's a whole lot more to this one that had me loving it from beginning to end. I listened to the audio as read by Alexie and here is what I loved about it in no particular order: -The language, often playful and poetic, but also straightforward in its honesty. -The meandering structure, which Alexie himself describes as a concentric quilt (his mother was a quilter.) Notionally, this is a memoir about Alexie, his mother and his mother's death, but it circles back over and over different pivotal aspects of his life, coming at them each time from subtly different angles. -The raw honesty. This is no romanticization of life on the reserve and life in the US for Indigenous people. But no one is going to walk away from this one with easy stereotypes left unchecked. -Alexie playfully lets us know that he may not always be a reliable raconteur. -The voices he lovingly gives his family members as he inserts them into his story. -His voice generally. -His unconditional love for his sisters, wife and children. -His complicated love for his father. -His even more complicated love for his mother, with all her flaws, strength and crazy intelligence. -And, again, the language. This may not be for everyone but I highly recommend hesitant readers give it a try. Thanks to a few enthusiastic GR friends -- including Julie E -- whose reviews nudged me to read this one. I hope my review nudges a few more readers...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I have only read one previous book by this author, his rather well known The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Never knew how autobiographical it really was, but after reading this I can definitely see where he was coming from. Searing in it's honestly, this is a powerful telling of his life, hard to read at times, but his ironic wit keeps it bearable. His conflicted feelings toward his mother, even after her death, so many things he could not understand. Made for repetitious reading I have only read one previous book by this author, his rather well known The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Never knew how autobiographical it really was, but after reading this I can definitely see where he was coming from. Searing in it's honestly, this is a powerful telling of his life, hard to read at times, but his ironic wit keeps it bearable. His conflicted feelings toward his mother, even after her death, so many things he could not understand. Made for repetitious reading at times as he tries in different ways to work out these feelings. Uses poetry, essays and thoughts, chronicling his health, which is another difficult subject as he has been through so much, his therapy, his family and all class, prejudice and his treatment because of this, and much more. Some incidents are humorous, some unbelievable, some so sad, can't help feeling sorry for the young boy he was and applaud the success, hard won, that he has as an adult. Actually made the book, Glass Castle, seem tame. ARC from publisher.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    I read You Don't Have to Say You Love Me back in June, and since then I've felt weirdly possessive of it. Whenever I saw someone else on Goodreads was reading it, I'd think indignantly, "HEY! Someone else is reading MY book!" And when I saw that someone else had reviewed it, I'd think, "HEY! What's that person doing, reviewing MY book?!?" It happened again just this morning! I was just about to write that this level of possessiveness is irrational, but honestly, in the case of this book I don't I read You Don't Have to Say You Love Me back in June, and since then I've felt weirdly possessive of it. Whenever I saw someone else on Goodreads was reading it, I'd think indignantly, "HEY! Someone else is reading MY book!" And when I saw that someone else had reviewed it, I'd think, "HEY! What's that person doing, reviewing MY book?!?" It happened again just this morning! I was just about to write that this level of possessiveness is irrational, but honestly, in the case of this book I don't think it's irrational at all. Thankfully, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is 450 pages long, because if it were shorter you would have less time to spend with Sherman Alexie. Sherman Alexie is a funny, funny guy, but he also knows how to move you so much that you're struggling not to burst into tears on your commuter train. Sherman Alexie is the first to admit that he may never, ever forgive his late mother for how she treated him, yet his love for her is palpable. Sherman Alexie understands that grief is illogical and that you never totally get over it. No one brings the rez to life like Sherman Alexie. Sherman Alexie can fill his memoir with poetry, and even though it's technically masterful, it's also totally accessible and you will like it even if you think you don't like poetry. When you spend 450 pages with Sherman Alexie, you come away from the experience feeling like you've made a friend, but not that friend who just agrees with you all the time. Sherman Alexie is the friend who's going to be honest with you and tell you what you need to hear, but he'll still be there when everyone else has slipped away. Do yourself a favor and don't resist Sherman Alexie. Sherman Alexie has what you need.

  6. 4 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    Sherman Alexie's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me provides the reader the experience of spending time with a master storyteller dealing with grief the only way he knows how. Anticipating and then mourning the death of his mother, Alexie tells stories from his childhood to his life as an author infused with raw emotion and humor. This raw emotion gives way to poetry to more quiet remembrances to an acknowledgment of how trauma shaped his life as well as his family's life. Despite the intensity, Sherman Alexie's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me provides the reader the experience of spending time with a master storyteller dealing with grief the only way he knows how. Anticipating and then mourning the death of his mother, Alexie tells stories from his childhood to his life as an author infused with raw emotion and humor. This raw emotion gives way to poetry to more quiet remembrances to an acknowledgment of how trauma shaped his life as well as his family's life. Despite the intensity, there is something meditative about how the book keeps circling around his mother, repeating stories and finding new meaning for the same stories (some of which will be familiar to readers of Alexie's works). Alexie's emotions sometimes feel all over the place and not all the stories seem to connect; however, this makes the experience all that more real.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel León

    I'm so picky when it comes to memoirs, but this one is truly something special. Sherman Alexie blends poetry and prose with a healthy dose of humor and gut-wrenching honesty. I loved how this book basically took everything great from his other work, put it in a blender, and added a wallop of naked honesty. The result is beautiful, heartbreaking, and breathtaking. (And at times, very, very funny.) Whether or not you've ever read Sherman Alexie, whether or not you enjoy memoirs, this book is so com I'm so picky when it comes to memoirs, but this one is truly something special. Sherman Alexie blends poetry and prose with a healthy dose of humor and gut-wrenching honesty. I loved how this book basically took everything great from his other work, put it in a blender, and added a wallop of naked honesty. The result is beautiful, heartbreaking, and breathtaking. (And at times, very, very funny.) Whether or not you've ever read Sherman Alexie, whether or not you enjoy memoirs, this book is so completely worth reading. It's one of my favorites of the year so far. It's just so, so good.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I can not imagine what it must feel like to grow up not feeling loved by your mother and even hating her. It just must be the worst feeling in the world. In You Don't Have to Say You Love Me award winning author Sherman Alexie attempts to come to terms with his relationship with an abusive and mentally ill mother. Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian (he calls his self an Indian so thats what imma call him) on a Spokane Indian Reservation in complete poverty. He lived in HUD housing I can not imagine what it must feel like to grow up not feeling loved by your mother and even hating her. It just must be the worst feeling in the world. In You Don't Have to Say You Love Me award winning author Sherman Alexie attempts to come to terms with his relationship with an abusive and mentally ill mother. Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian (he calls his self an Indian so thats what imma call him) on a Spokane Indian Reservation in complete poverty. He lived in HUD housing sometimes with no food, water, or power. His father was an alcoholic who eventually drank his self to death. His mother was an untreated Bipolar(untreated because she couldn't afford health insurance!!!!) and was both loved and feared by everyone who knew her. Alexie fled the reservation while still a teenager and in doing so probably saved his own life. Over 459 pages Alexie works out how to both forgive and better understand his late mother. He admits multiple times that he and his mother are a lot alike. They both are Bipolar and have a tendency to both shutdown and lash out at people. I won't tell you more because I feel this book should be experienced first hand. This is my first time reading anything by Sherman Alexie but it won't be my last. This story is rich in emotion, honesty and its very funny( I was going to say devastatingly funny but its used as a blurb on the back of the book) Read this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    “You don't have to say you love me just be close at hand You don't have to stay forever I will understand Believe me, believe me”--Dusty Springfield “In the indigenous world, we assign sacred value to circles. But sometimes a circle just means you keep returning to the same shit again and again. This book is a series of circles, sacred and profane.”—Alexie "My grief has cast me in a lethargic cabaret. So pay the cover charge and take your seat. This mourning has become a relentless production And I've “You don't have to say you love me just be close at hand You don't have to stay forever I will understand Believe me, believe me”--Dusty Springfield “In the indigenous world, we assign sacred value to circles. But sometimes a circle just means you keep returning to the same shit again and again. This book is a series of circles, sacred and profane.”—Alexie "My grief has cast me in a lethargic cabaret. So pay the cover charge and take your seat. This mourning has become a relentless production And I've got seventy-eight roles to play.”--Alexie Wow, this is one helluva ride of a book. Sherman Alexie, the author of several books of poetry and fiction, including The Long Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, writes his first memoir, all 450 pages of it, in a kind of manic explosion of grief and rage and poetry and creative energy. Alexie’s mother, a Coeur d’ Alene Indian, was among other things, a quilter, and this book reads a little like a pastiche or patch work quilt, alternating poems with prose reminiscences about his complicated relationship with his mother, though he also talks about his own life separate from her, and (much less) about the rest of his family. But his mother and (mostly) his relationship to her is the centerpiece of this searing self-examination. He refers to himself as "mother-stung." And like his mother, Alexie is possessed of a prodigious rage: Against white people for what they did to Native Americans, including his own family, but he is also almost equally enraged at Native Americans, and the various ways they turn on themselves. The alcoholism, teenaged pregnancy, various kinds of abuse, and so on. "Scholars talk about the endless cycle of poverty and racism and classism and crime. But I don't see it as a cycle, as a circle. I see it as a locked room filled with the people who share my DNA. This room has recently been set afire and there's only one escape hatch, ten feet off the ground. And I know I have to build a ladder out of the bones of my fallen family in order to climb to safety."--Alexie Alexie isn’t always sure he loves or has loved his mother, with whom he didn’t speak for long stretches of time. In Alexie's version of history, she isn’t a great mother, but he also admits he was never a great son. As he also admits many times, he can be a narcissistic asshole. For example, the number of times he mentions how he as a successful author buys things for his family and pays for their bills! Good for you, Junior, you jerk! Why don't you visit once in awhile, dude? He claims privileged status as maligned Indian and as super-educated and successful Indian, and then admits he doesn’t know his own tribe's language, and has never fully observed the customs. He at turns calls attention to his talent and fame, then admits he is a mean-spirited asshole, then notes that self-deprecation is just another form of narcissism. This kind of manic self-awareness can seem wise, annoying, and tiring depending on his and your moods (450 pages, did I mention that?). Alexie alternates often gorgeous poems with anecdotes from the funeral or family life or rants about the state of the world past and present. There’s a range of emotion, if you haven't picked up on that point already: Anger: “So we must forgive all those who trespass against us? Fuck that shit. I’m not some charitable trust. There are people I will hate even after I’m ashes and dust.” Resignation: “This is who I am. This is who I have always been. I am in pain. I am always in pain. But I always find my way to the story. And I always find my way home.” In the year after his mother died, Alexie had brain surgery, and this continues to affect his thinking/feeling, so you wonder about that from time to time as you read. And he makes you increasingly aware that he probably won’t live a long life, so meditates on his own death (he’s only in his fifties) in places. “Did you know that you can be killed by a benign tumor? Imagine that news headline: Native American poet killed by oxymoron.” He was also before that surgery diagnosed bi-polar, and you can see it in his prose; there is no writer alive who can so exasperate and so enrich at the same time. He can make you laugh aloud and cringe in disgust and weep on the same page! Alexie, who also does stand-up (I have hear him give speeches several times, and he never speaks from notes; he moves quickly from jokes to rage about the political/historical scene), uses humor to deflect trauma: “If Heaven ain't filled with gender-swapping Indians, then I don't want to go there.” “Poverty was my spirit animal.” “I’m positive there are no Spokane Indian words for real estate appreciation.” When he was young he couldn’t afford a winter coat or boots. He wore “K-Mart tennis shoes that we called rez boots.” “We are the Gold Medalists in the Genocide Olympics.” (Though he then concedes it may be a Silver Medal, acknowledging the Holocaust). He also regularly bursts into poetry throughout, though much of the prose is also lyrical: “But a person can be genocided-can have every connection to his past severed- and live to be an old man whose rib cage is a haunted house built around his heart.” “The dead have only the voices we give them.” “I cried so often while writing this book. It became a ceremony, equal parts wounding and healing.” “Words exist in me like dinosaurs exist in birds.” Alexie also admits he makes stuff up, recalls things wrongly at times; he admits he is “the unreliable narrator of his own life.” And elsewhere: “I think you already know I am gonna conflate shit.” Alexie has visions, hears voices, sees ghosts at the same time he is a huge cynic about magic and spirituality, even Native spirituality. He had to cancel the remainder of his book tour for this book because he said he was being nightly visited by the ghost of his mother. “Thing is, I don’t believe in ghosts. But I see them all the time.” This is a story of poverty, racism, rape, alcoholism, and loss after loss, but told in the most entertaining way you can imagine (though yes, sometimes it is too long and annoying, as I said). Alexie is a clown shaman, part charming dreamboat poet, part liar, part whiner, part raging activist, which makes him very much like his mother. They had a hard time loving each other because they were so much alike: “I’m the child with all her vanity and rage.” Read it for the laughs, for the sometimes astonishing insights into grief and for the language and poetry. It’s for me often 6 or 7 stars, as he assumes the mantle of one of our greatest writers, but I have to say I am thinking of it now as somewhere between 4 and 4.5 stars, as it is longer than it needs to be, and feels at times scattered and uneven. I liked The Long Ranger and Part-Time Indian as more concise and controlled stories using the same basic life material. But I am going to read it and I suspect my evaluation may go higher. I think everyone should read this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This book is sure to give you an emotional ride, particularly if you listen to the audiobook read by the author. It is read with passion. Prose poetry is what is delivered. He knows better than anyone which word to emphasize, where to pause, where involuntarily laughter erupts and where tears come to his eyes. His voice quavers and his voice sings. He lays his heart and soul bare. What is given is a lyrical reading that exudes feeling - grief and longing and search for resolution. Poetry is a so This book is sure to give you an emotional ride, particularly if you listen to the audiobook read by the author. It is read with passion. Prose poetry is what is delivered. He knows better than anyone which word to emphasize, where to pause, where involuntarily laughter erupts and where tears come to his eyes. His voice quavers and his voice sings. He lays his heart and soul bare. What is given is a lyrical reading that exudes feeling - grief and longing and search for resolution. Poetry is a song; it is better heard than read. Some of the lines are in fact sung. I have given the narration a whopping five stars. You should not read this; you should listen to it. Sherman Alexie is a novelist, short story writer, filmmaker and now with this book a memoirist, but first and foremost a poet. I state this because of the intrinsic poetic tone of his writing. His career began with publication in 1992 of the poetry collection: The Business of Fancydancing (Hanging Loose Press). In the same year he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. It is important to understand that this memoir reads as prose poetry rather than separate pieces of poetry. There is a thread to be followed, a message to be relayed and the writing just happens to be poetic. I usually do not read poetry, but this is different. This is a memoir written with lyrical pose. Sherman Alexie is speaking of his relationship with his mother, of his own childhood experiences and most importantly of how it is to be Native American still today. He was born in 1966. Today he is fifty, married and living in Seattle, Washington. The author's writing draws on his own experiences as a Native American. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Eastern Washington State. He writes of poverty, racism, violence, alcoholism and rape, prevalent phenomena in the lives of Native Americans living on or off of reservations. Despair is lightened with humor. Swear words and crudity are a central part of the environment he comes from. Initially I was put off, but as I better came to understand that other life, that is not one I know, I felt compassion rather than disgust. I have learned from this book. It spoke both to my heart and to my head. It has given me insight into a world foreign to my own and for this reason I am very glad to have read it. This is a heart wrenching read. The author's relationship with his mother had been deeply conflicted. Then his mother died in 2015. Writing this book can be seen as a means of tackling his conflicting emotions. Love and hate. He certainly did have reasons to both love and hate her. He tells all, well almost all. One cannot judge until one understands what he has lived through and what his mother lived through. Alexie was born with hydrocephalus. More than once he has undergone brain surgery. Serious medical problems, poverty, ostracism, bullying, alcoholism and racism are the ingredients of his life. Rape, alcoholism, violence and extreme poverty are determining factors in his mother’s life. Mother and son are merely human. How do you resolve such a nest of worms? How do you straighten out your feelings? I appreciated immensely that the author does not simply blame others; he shoulders his own misdeeds, faults and errors. And he has had the courage to tell us. The writing is repetitious in two senses. One good and one bad. Recently I read a great essay by E.B. White. It is found in Essays of E.B. White. He speaks of the art of writing and lauds William Strunk Jr.’s The Elements of Style. It is said there, among many other things, that one should keep the writing simple. Remove all words that can be removed. If you want to make appoint, repeat the words, not once or twice but several times. This is how Sherman Alexie writes. Has he read this manual? It seems so. This advice is extremely effective. That is the good repetition. However the author often returns to the same theme or event multiple times and honestly I found this just crazy. I kept thinking, “I’ve already heard that; you’ve already told me that before!” Better editing is warranted. By the end of the book I was getting annoyed by this; a third or at least a fourth of the book could have been edited out. So why should you read this book? To get an insight into the lifestyle of Native Americans at the end of the last century and still today. It is an eye-opener and it is movingly told. In addition you will reanalyze your own relationships with your parents and siblings.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    ”There is no preparation for the loneliness of a world from which the two people who put you in it have gone. The death of parents removes the last cushion against contemplating your own mortality. The cycle of life and death becomes internal, bone-deep knowledge, a source now of despair, now of inspiration. The earth acquires a new quality of silence.” Roger Cohen in The New York Times As I was completing Sherman Alexie’s memoir which loosely focuses on his troubled relationship with his Spokane ”There is no preparation for the loneliness of a world from which the two people who put you in it have gone. The death of parents removes the last cushion against contemplating your own mortality. The cycle of life and death becomes internal, bone-deep knowledge, a source now of despair, now of inspiration. The earth acquires a new quality of silence.” Roger Cohen in The New York Times As I was completing Sherman Alexie’s memoir which loosely focuses on his troubled relationship with his Spokane First-Nation mother, Lillian, I learned that he had just cancelled most of the book tour dedicated to promoting it. He was haunted by his mother’s ghost and found himself sobbing several times a day while he travelled. His grief over the loss of his fierce mother, he wrote in a letter posted on Facebook, was “complicated” (an actual term used by psychotherapists who work with the bereaved). He needed to mourn in private. Having been diagnosed as bipolar in 2010, he was now in the throes of a significant depressive episode. It did not surprise me that such afflictive emotions would arise with the completion of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Remembering, writing about, and then publicly discussing intensely painful details of your past forces you, on some level, to relive them. A kind of re-traumatization can quite understandably occur. Alexie has said in interviews that he does not find writing therapeutic, though he acknowledges his work may be helpful to his audience. (He says that reading literature has certainly been therapeutic for him.) For Alexie, writing appears to be a kind of compulsion. His work, which is strongly autobiographical, occasionally irks family members. They have expressed anxiety or irritation about how events or they, themselves, are represented in his books. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is ostensibly an exploration of Alexie’s relationship with his mother, but I think it is actually something other than that: a collection of short personal pieces on the genocide, literal and cultural, of Indian peoples. Alexie puzzles over the fact that a Holocaust museum (rightly, he says) exists in Washington, DC, but that there is no equivalent memorial to the mass crimes against the humanity of American Indian nations. He describes the substandard living and environmental conditions on his home reservation in Washington State. Two uranium mines were situated near the reserve, and when the mines closed years ago, only one was adequately cleaned up, leaving the indigenous people who live in the area at high risk for cancer. Rains have long run off the toxic mine tailings into rivers and creeks on the reserve. Families swam and fished in those rivers and poured the water from them over the hot stones in sweat lodges constructed from young trees that grew near the waterways. If mining wasn’t enough of an assault on a people’s land and way of life, the Grand Coulee Dam, constructed in the state of Washington between 1933 and 1942, certainly was. Traditional Spokane culture centred around salmon, but salmon fishing was entirely curtailed with the building of the dam. Colville and Spokane Indian tribes were forced off their lands to make way for it. Violence, sexual assault, and substance abuse were rampant on Alexie’s reserve as he grew up. (His book provides no indication that things are much different today.) He writes that he himself was sexually abused as a child, but gives no details about this. In an interview with James Yeh of the New York Times (June 12, 2017), Alexie remarks that he is always “going to tell the better version” about what happened. It’s hard to find “the better version” in You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me which seems to be an example of pretty brutal truth telling, but Alexie insists in The Times article that there are secrets—things he will not write about. His sexual abuse may be one of them. Alexie’s father, a kind and gentle depressive, was almost perpetually on a bender, rarely employed, and largely absent from his children’s lives. He died at 64 of kidney failure, the result of diabetes and a lifelong relationship with the bottle. Lillian, too, had problems with alcohol. She gave it up when Sherman was seven—an act, he says, which saved his life. A powerful and creative woman, a skilled quilter and one of the last fluent speakers of Salish, Lillian was also a fury who frightened people outside the family as much as those within it. She was a dry drunk, full of rage and pain, long after she’d renounced alcohol. Alexie believes that she, like him, was manic-depressive. Though her words and stories could seldom be trusted, he accepts her accounts of herself as both a product and victim of rape. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is not a perfect work. Parts of it are repetitive, and its organization feels slightly careless and random. It consists of poems and short prose pieces that appear to have been written at various times and then loosely stitched together. Some of the poems are more effective than others. A few were inaccessible to me: even after several readings, their metaphorical import was elusive. Occasionally, there is “too much information”, as they say, (i.e., information that most of us wouldn’t share in “polite” society), and the profanity is sometimes more gratuitous than effective. The truth of any matter can be as slippery in Alexie’s hands as it was in his notoriously fabulistic mother’s. His siblings remark that he lies as much as Lillian, that he massages facts to suit his own ends. Alexie can also come across as self-absorbed and self-admiring. He frequently mentions his popularity and intellectual abilities as a student at an all-white high school and more than once describes himself as a gifted writer. Most of us know it’s just not “good manners” to sing one’s own praises, yet I found myself quite willing to let these statements go. After all, there was really nothing to suggest the contrary, and lots to indicate there was good reason to sing. The subject matter of Alexie’s memoir is grim, and his mother, who is supposedly its main subject never emerges as more than a shadowy figure. However, the darkness of the content is regularly pierced with bright flashes of wit, hilarity, and irreverence. Alexie’s voice is utterly unique: confessional, intense, dramatic--variously vulnerable, ashamed, angry, and ironic. I really can't think of another voice quite like it. You can hear Alexie when you read his words. You can sometimes believe that you are there with him. Kafka said we should read books that wound us: “We need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me was exactly that kind of book for me: wrenching and intensely, utterly human. I would like to express my gratitude to the publisher (Little, Brown and Company) and Netgalley for providing me with a digital copy of this moving book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donalyn

    Stunning. NBA contender. Don't miss this one. Stunning. NBA contender. Don't miss this one.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jillybb

    Whiny, petulant, repetitive, sexist, and beyond boring. This book is awful. I've written before that I am not a fan of authors reading their own work. This is painfully true about this book as Alexie whines and snivels and drones on and on about his mother, that hard-working woman who worked her fingers to the bone making quilts so that his arse could be fed. But dear old drunken dad who abandons the family for weeks at a time is a saint! Alexie acknowledges his mental health issues, which is wh Whiny, petulant, repetitive, sexist, and beyond boring. This book is awful. I've written before that I am not a fan of authors reading their own work. This is painfully true about this book as Alexie whines and snivels and drones on and on about his mother, that hard-working woman who worked her fingers to the bone making quilts so that his arse could be fed. But dear old drunken dad who abandons the family for weeks at a time is a saint! Alexie acknowledges his mental health issues, which is why it was the responsibility of his editor to cut this crap into a short story. The best parts of this book you've met before in his 'Diary of a Part Time Indian'. He has nothing new to say. He's right to be afraid of running out of words -- he clearly has. He tells a pointless story about the loss of a pair of blue shoes and owns that his aim is to be "mythic". He fails. All this book shows is that as much as Alexie claims to hate the White Man, there are a whole bunch of them colluding to make him the Indian de jour, and will publish any crap he spouts in betrayal of his family. Never mind that far more deserving brown women never get the opportunities that have been flung at Alexie. I hope it's true that his mother's ghost is haunting his arse. He deserves a kick in the nuts from the netherworld for this long-winded piece of dreck.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I will leave this book unrated. While I was reading this, accusations against Sherman Alexie have started to emerge and I cannot at this point seperate the art from the artist. I will say this: on a technical level, this is well-written and emotionally moving, on a personal level, I don't know how to talk about this book. I will leave this book unrated. While I was reading this, accusations against Sherman Alexie have started to emerge and I cannot at this point seperate the art from the artist. I will say this: on a technical level, this is well-written and emotionally moving, on a personal level, I don't know how to talk about this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Sherman Alexie's YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME is a memoir of this Indigenous man's love/hate relationships with his family, his friends, his acquaintances, himself, but especially his mother. A mix of prose and poetry, I highly recommend listening to this audiobook as the author himself reads it with such intensity, such passion, such raw emotion. In Chapter 159, he recounts being bullied in school (this was extremely personal for me). You can hear/feel his intense pain in Chapter 140 as he Sherman Alexie's YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME is a memoir of this Indigenous man's love/hate relationships with his family, his friends, his acquaintances, himself, but especially his mother. A mix of prose and poetry, I highly recommend listening to this audiobook as the author himself reads it with such intensity, such passion, such raw emotion. In Chapter 159, he recounts being bullied in school (this was extremely personal for me). You can hear/feel his intense pain in Chapter 140 as he talks about rape. But if you were only going to listen to a portion of this story, then go to Chapter 79 where he talks about being subjected to racism. His thoughts brought tears to my eyes and a shameful pain to my heart. I only wish EVERYONE could read/listen to this chapter with an open mind and without judgment. And while you're at it, just listen to the whole book, SOON, to get a sense of what Indigenous people have went, and continue to, go through.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    I'd never read Sherman Alexie's first great breakout book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I'm not sure why. I was interested; perhaps I was saving it. Instead I chose to read at this time his new memoir which could also be read as a eulogy for his mother. His upbringing sounds like it was a rough time all round. His parents were alcoholics. Sherman didn't come out unscathed, but he has been reaching out--he is fearless in revealing himself and his family. Perhaps he has found t I'd never read Sherman Alexie's first great breakout book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I'm not sure why. I was interested; perhaps I was saving it. Instead I chose to read at this time his new memoir which could also be read as a eulogy for his mother. His upbringing sounds like it was a rough time all round. His parents were alcoholics. Sherman didn't come out unscathed, but he has been reaching out--he is fearless in revealing himself and his family. Perhaps he has found this makes him more likable, relatable. The end papers of this memoir are printed with a quilt pattern. Alexie tells us his mother quilted all the time, even through the night. He himself has at least ten quilts and he uses all of them. But when his mother died, he wanted to collect all the quilts she'd made and left behind and burn them all. I didn't get the impression he did so. For whatever reason. Lillian, that was her name. Lillian was one of the last speakers of his ancestor's native language. In a chapter entitled "Eulogy," Alexie repeats the phrase My mother was a dictionary over and over, every couple lines, but she never taught me the tribal language. The poem ends, She always said to me, 'English will be your best weapon.' She was right, she was right, she was right.Perhaps my favorite poem is one of his shortest, called "Communion" in which sentiment pairs with form:we worship the salmon because we eat salmonThe chapter entitled "Missionary Position" will stay with me a very long time. While in high school, Alexie tells us one of his friends said something deeply racist in his company, having momentarily forgotten he was Indian. He ended up dating her for a few years, and once gave her a pawnshop ring that was worth $20. When they broke up, she gave the ring back. He sold it back to the pawnshop for $10. In the beginning of the book, in a chapter called "Scatalogical," Alexie explains there is something called a grief poop. After everyone had left the funeral home, two days after the death of his mother, Alexie stayed behind to use the restroom. A sign hung on the wall behind the toilet: Please be gentle with our toilet. The pipes are old. Be judicious in your use of toilet paper. He tells us "I took the largest shit of my life. I expelled everything." He ended up breaking up the poop into pieces and had to hold the pieces in his hand so he could flush them in four tries. "Thing was as big as a walrus." I'd never known about grief poops, but it makes sense. Alexie's work has become indispensable for the well-read American. One cannot claim any credibility as a reader without having dipped a foot into his world and walked awhile in his boots. Reading Alexie is a kind of responsibility.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. In my life. Several books over the years have made me laugh out loud, but I laughed so hard and so loudly at one point early on in this book that it made the dog yowl. Several books over the years have made me cry, but not in quite the same way that I cried while reading this book. This book was so deeply personal. It made me feel more human, less alone: Sherman Alexie feels like the best friend I never had. I finally get it. I get why people love Sherm This is one of the best books I've ever read. In my life. Several books over the years have made me laugh out loud, but I laughed so hard and so loudly at one point early on in this book that it made the dog yowl. Several books over the years have made me cry, but not in quite the same way that I cried while reading this book. This book was so deeply personal. It made me feel more human, less alone: Sherman Alexie feels like the best friend I never had. I finally get it. I get why people love Sherman Alexie so much. Before this memoir, the only book I'd read by him was Flight, which is a good book, but it didn't touch me nearly as deeply as this one. Here is a poem (from the book) that I loved: Physics I want to reverse this earth And give birth to my mother Because I do not believe That she was ever adored. I want to mother the mother Who often did not mother me. I was mothered and adored By mothers not my own, And learned how to be adoring By being adored. So if I adore my mother after giving birth to this new version of her, Will she change history And become one Who openly and freely adores Her daughters and sons? I don't know, I don't know If it's possible in any potential world. But build me a time machine And I'll give this shit a whirl.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ginger

    Listen. I don't know how or when My grieving will end, but I'm always Relearning how to be human again. This memoir was great!! After switching from audio to written print, I enjoyed it much more. I wasn’t a fan of the audio book because Sherman Alexie got a bit too dramatic for me at times. I just wasn’t a fan. But when I was reading his words, it worked! I enjoyed his brutal honesty with his mother’s death, his family and growing up on the reservation. I can’t imagine the pain and shame of g Listen. I don't know how or when My grieving will end, but I'm always Relearning how to be human again. This memoir was great!! After switching from audio to written print, I enjoyed it much more. I wasn’t a fan of the audio book because Sherman Alexie got a bit too dramatic for me at times. I just wasn’t a fan. But when I was reading his words, it worked! I enjoyed his brutal honesty with his mother’s death, his family and growing up on the reservation. I can’t imagine the pain and shame of growing up as a Native American and how society has almost destroyed this culture and ethnicity. I enjoyed his poems and humor throughout this book. It helped having that in the book since he talks about heavy topics of racism, poverty, alcoholism, rape, bullying, etc. And yet with all the substantial topics just mentioned, this memoir is still a deeply, personal story of a man dealing with a strained relationship with his mother, being bipolar and connecting with his family and culture again. He seems to be coming to terms with it all. Bravo Alexie on putting it all out there and giving a voice to more Native Americans in our country. Well done!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    Part narrative, part prose poetry, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is written by Sherman Alexie, all Native American Indian!! This book is primarily about his relationship with his mother. That relation is part magic, part tragic. Sherman relates this to his sons AND his readers in a poem found on pages 414/415. I was up and down emotionally with this book because of this relationship with Mom. I have never been a mother; would I be any better? Sherman also details some experiences he had with th Part narrative, part prose poetry, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is written by Sherman Alexie, all Native American Indian!! This book is primarily about his relationship with his mother. That relation is part magic, part tragic. Sherman relates this to his sons AND his readers in a poem found on pages 414/415. I was up and down emotionally with this book because of this relationship with Mom. I have never been a mother; would I be any better? Sherman also details some experiences he had with the white world. Being from the 'rez', whites did not treat him with respect. I know I am naive, but people being racist towards American Indians never hit me as a possibility, at least not in the 21st Century. Sherman has a strong voice and his writing is strong too. He can be repetitive at times, but since he wants to drive home an idea or point, that repetition is more than forgiven. Very interesting and emotional book. 4 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    In this memoir, Native American author Sherman Alexie tells the story of his mother, her hard life on the Spokane Indian rez in Washington, her death, and how he, after his mother's passing, discovered tragic facts about her youth that she could never reveal to him. In the context of this story, Alexie also talks about his own life as well as about other members of his family and his tribe, thus conveying to his readers what it felt like for him to grow up as a poor reservation Indian. I recently In this memoir, Native American author Sherman Alexie tells the story of his mother, her hard life on the Spokane Indian rez in Washington, her death, and how he, after his mother's passing, discovered tragic facts about her youth that she could never reveal to him. In the context of this story, Alexie also talks about his own life as well as about other members of his family and his tribe, thus conveying to his readers what it felt like for him to grow up as a poor reservation Indian. I recently devoured Tommy Orange's brilliant There There, in which he talks about Native Americans who grow up and/or live in the city (in this case Oakland, the author's home town). The book made me want to revisit the work of Alexie who was arguably the first Native American star author, and whose National Book Award-winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was banned (!) in some schools and declared as un-christian (!!) because of how it depicted the hardship of Native Americans. Many articles about Orange see him in the tradition of Alexie (obviously), but, together with Terese Marie Mailhot, as the head of a new Native American literary movement. In You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, Alexie combines 78 poems and 78 essays, thus honoring his mother who died at 78. His signature style holds all texts together: Highly poetic images and metaphors mixed with passionate analysis, humor, contemplation and social criticism. If you don't feel with the people in these stories, you're officially dead inside. I'm glad that Native American literature gets more attention again, and while it was a major blunder that the Booker didn't longlist Orange, I am now counting on the National Book Award to celebrate his fantastic debut novel. Donald Trump is currently trying to challenge the status of Native American tribal governments, to take away health care and sacred land and to cut down job training programs targeting Native Americans while calling Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" and overall being a racist disgrace to the US. Turn up the volume for the brilliant, poetic, intelligent new voices who stand against this insanity. NOTE: Sherman Alexie has recently been accused of sexual misconduct, and he has issued a stement in which he admitted that "there are women telling the truth about my behavior", but also rejected what he calls "outright falsehoods" (https://assets.documentcloud.org/docu...). Here's an article by NPR in which the women speak: https://www.npr.org/2018/03/05/589909....

  21. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I did not like this memoir. It had very few of the qualities that make a memoir insightful and worthwhile. The first word that comes to mind to describe this memoir is "navel-gazing": self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view. There are a lot of things I want to see in a well-written memoir. One of them is honesty and accuracy. I want the writing in a memoir to be vivid, and true. Artful honesty is one of the very best parts of a memoi I did not like this memoir. It had very few of the qualities that make a memoir insightful and worthwhile. The first word that comes to mind to describe this memoir is "navel-gazing": self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view. There are a lot of things I want to see in a well-written memoir. One of them is honesty and accuracy. I want the writing in a memoir to be vivid, and true. Artful honesty is one of the very best parts of a memoir--it's a key ingredient. While Alexie admits to creating his own "highly flawed version of the truth", he doesn't seem to see this as a downside or try to correct it. I also want the memoir to be about more than just the author. I believe more often than not, you need to be interested in more than just your own point of view, your own pain, in order to write a book that speaks meaningfully to others and makes a thoughtful point. Alexie barely accomplishes this at any point in his memoir, and doesn't seem to have the emotional capacity to write fairly about anyone he dislikes. An example of an author who does this type of writing very well is Tobias Wolff. He is an amazing listener, seems curious about his own inner-workings and the people around him. This translates really well into a memoir, because it expands the memoir beyond just "me me me". Of course, a large part of a memoir is going to focus on the author. When this happens, I want the author to opt for honesty in place of sensation. I want them to focus on self-searching, not self-promotion. I am not interested in stories and fantasies that exist for the sole purpose of self-glorification. An example where Alexie fails entirely to turn his critical-eye inward (and there are many of these examples) is chapter 27, "Clotheshorse", where a man tells him his shirt is wrinkled and Alexie goes on what can only be described as a petty and immature rant where he decimated the mans character and bragged about popular and great he, Sherman, is. This was the entire chapter, and had nothing to do with anything else that happened in the book. These kinds of outbursts were common. Which brings me to my next point. The author of a memoir should not be whiny. I don't want to just relive the misery that the author went through, and I find it very off-putting when the purpose of detailing a personal trial seems to be, in large part, to generate sympathy. I also don't think writing a memoir should = therapy. You are writing for an audience. Unless you're a genius, don't just spew forth a stream of consciousness and expect to create something worthwhile. This instead creates a story that doesn't make sense to me and doesn't convey any message. Again, I think that a good memoir will focus on the lessons you learned through the experiences you're detailing. I believe that it takes a lazy writer to think that expressing themselves, jotting their feelings down, is enough. It's not. It's sloppy and leads to a lot of cliches. I believe the "Fuck you cancer" poem is an example of this. I believe that the repetitiveness that is painfully obvious and in-artfully used in the memoir is an example of this. There are many, many examples of this. In general, Alexie's immaturity and lack of perspective and perceptive understanding of the world around him made for, in my opinion, a terrible read. There's hopefully no need to say that this is all very subjective though. I know plenty of people enjoyed this book, and maybe aren't looking for what I'm looking for when reading a book like this.

  22. 5 out of 5

    jeremy

    ...thank you, mother, for being my mother. thank you for your imperfect love it almost worked. it mostly worked. or partly worked. it was almost enough. heartbreaking and beautiful. candid and sincere. revelatory and sorrowful. cathartic and expressive. eloquent and coarse. brave and amusing. tender and taut. i allowed my wife—who'd seen me naked and touched me thousands of times—to finally touch me in those places where i had hoarded so much of my pain and shame. as anyone who has read the man ...thank you, mother, for being my mother. thank you for your imperfect love it almost worked. it mostly worked. or partly worked. it was almost enough. heartbreaking and beautiful. candid and sincere. revelatory and sorrowful. cathartic and expressive. eloquent and coarse. brave and amusing. tender and taut. i allowed my wife—who'd seen me naked and touched me thousands of times—to finally touch me in those places where i had hoarded so much of my pain and shame. as anyone who has read the many works of sherman alexie knows well, the spokane/coeur d'alene indian novelist, short story writer, poet, filmmaker, and performer is gifted with the lingual arts. his new memoir, you don't have to say you love me, contends with the past; an often fraught relationship with his mother, his drunken father, his siblings, life on the reservation, tribal relations, bullying, insecurity, poverty, racism, guilt, shame, hurt, vulnerability, courage, abuse, neglect, tragedy, perseverance, grief, death, loss. forthright, funny, and unflinchingly bold, alexie's memoir reads as much as a purge and self-cleansing as it does an autobiography crafted for his readers. playing foil to his poignancy, alexie's ribald sense of humor often leaves the reader crying on one page and laughing hysterically the next. the full range of human emotions, many expressed most vehemently, are on ample display within. told in both poetry and prose, you don't have to say you love me is a remarkable reckoning with the past and its often indelible legacy, and the fortitude necessary to triumph beyond it, further proving the national book award-winning author's talents are legion – however borne of pain and suffering. ah, friend, this world—this one universe— is already too expansive for me. when i die, let my mourners know that i shrugged at the possibility of other universes. hire a choir— let them tell the truth but tell it choral— let the assembled voices sing about my theology: i'm the fragile and finite mortal who wanted no part of immortality.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Powerful. Engaging. Beautiful. Sad. This is an account of the author's difficult relationship with a difficult but fascinating mother. It is also a story of what it means to him to be a Native American, what his experience growing up on a reservation was like and what it means to be successful in the white world. He talks about how he is treated both by members of that white world and by the Native Americans who often accuse him of being "white", or, at any rate, not a "true" Indian. Alexie uses m Powerful. Engaging. Beautiful. Sad. This is an account of the author's difficult relationship with a difficult but fascinating mother. It is also a story of what it means to him to be a Native American, what his experience growing up on a reservation was like and what it means to be successful in the white world. He talks about how he is treated both by members of that white world and by the Native Americans who often accuse him of being "white", or, at any rate, not a "true" Indian. Alexie uses much repetition, which I sometimes found enhanced the story and sometimes did not. I imagine him reading my review and saying "[email protected]!* her!" because who am I really to rate his story and because that's the kind of persona I imagine him having. Both gentle and fierce. A survivor. His mother was beloved by others on the reservation. One of the last to speak the native language, she made beautiful quilts to support her impoverished family. But Alexie felt closer to his alcoholic father (his mother was an alcoholic who managed to stop drinking to keep her family, at least somewhat, safe). His father was gentle his mother, like Alexie, fierce. Also a storyteller (like Alexie) which meant her accounts of events were not always to be trusted. Alexie struggles with his ambivalent feelings toward his mother. He is grateful that she allowed him to leave the reservation to go a white school, in a white town. He wonders if that conservative town that welcomed him, where he did so well, was so popular and beloved is now voting against people like him. Alexie is always balancing the personal and the political. The story is moving and the telling of it mesmerizing. It illuminates some of the complexity of family relationships, especially those impacted by poverty and racism. And yet, for all its political overtones and subtext, it remains a profoundly personal story of a son grieving his mother and their relationship, still coming to terms with what it all was.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    Well, this is horribly disappointing. Deleting my prior review and going to seek out other Native American voices. Well, this is horribly disappointing. Deleting my prior review and going to seek out other Native American voices.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jan Priddy

    [Recent news of Alexie's abuse of women (early 2018), confirmation by no less than Joy Harjo that complaints have been ongoing for years, and especially his semi-apology should not surprise anyone. It is clear in his memoir that his perception of suffering is entirely selfish. At no point in this memoir does he reveal any depth of appreciation for the suffering or pain of anyone but himself. Despite his skill as a writer, I never understood the apparent widespread "love" of this book.] "Believe [Recent news of Alexie's abuse of women (early 2018), confirmation by no less than Joy Harjo that complaints have been ongoing for years, and especially his semi-apology should not surprise anyone. It is clear in his memoir that his perception of suffering is entirely selfish. At no point in this memoir does he reveal any depth of appreciation for the suffering or pain of anyone but himself. Despite his skill as a writer, I never understood the apparent widespread "love" of this book.] "Believe me, believe me, believe me." Ever since I read a review of Sherman Alexie’s memoir, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, the song has been running through my head. You could find it on YouTube, but if Dusty Springfield’s voice doesn’t come right up out of your memory, best to leave it alone. You may find yourself walking in time to the tune for the next few days. Maybe that isn’t so bad. It’s a great old song, but I would be happy to get it out of my head. Alexie has almost ruined it for me. There are short vignettes, longer scenes, words cut into lines and stanzas that sometimes are poems and sometimes have other business. I felt it began strong, but ultimately this book does not reveal the wisdom of hindsight or the generosity of objectivity or compassion. This is thrashing. This is struggle. This is self defense. Alexie’s memoir is likely to stick around in my head for a while too. I don’t have much in common with Alexie since he is an “urban Indian” and a man and fifteen years younger than I am. He was raised poor and on a reservation and, while I was raised on a dirt road with open ditches and poverty all around me, my parents chose that house because the schools were good. My father was also an alcoholic. Maybe. But he worked and brought home his paycheck. We always had milk in the house, even if it was powdered. He died. I loved him very much. We have that much in common. I also loved Sherman’s first collection of short stories. My friend Kathie lent me her ARC and we invited him to talk to my high school students and to read in Cannon Beach based on that book. We are a largely rural and poor community. Alexie and his bride stopped off for these events on the Oregon coast before completing their journey home after their honeymoon in Hawaii. Before telling more I should mention that I have read most of his books, that my friend teaches The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which has considerable connection to Alexie’s real life, that when I was teaching literature I taught his short stories, and that this author made my husband cry. I bear a grudge concerning that last. I have not forgiven Sherman Alexie any more than he has forgiven his mother. I was not raised in poverty but my husband was. I am not always a kind person, but my husband nearly always is. So I am a skeptic when it comes to Sherman Alexie. I am a fan, but I know enough not to trust him. The strength in this memoir is the writing itself, which is sometimes brilliant and occasionally even humble and honest when he admits flaws. Too often he is defensive. Mostly he is churning with guilt and anger and not managing any forward movement. He is eager to label himself bipolar. He expresses tremendous guilt and resentment for his estrangement from his mother, for not speaking to her for days and weeks and even years at a time. But he blames her for it. Like many children of bad fathers, he blames his mother. As a woman and a mother myself, I find that bizarre. I take it too personally, you might think. I am a feminist and a class warrior. I am also weary of people who hold their mothers responsible for all the sorrow in their childhood. Big message here: Everybody’s mother dies. None of us is perfect. Alexie’s mother stopped drinking when he was a little child and struggled to support her children and her husband. She also moved onto the living room couch, a move she explains as a step up from memories of being crowded in bed with siblings. At least sleeping on the couch, on a succession of couches, she did not have to share. Alexie accepts and even defends this explanation. I wonder that he never considers the likelihood that she no longer wanted to sleep with her drunken husband, that she did not want to take a chance on another pregnancy? That while she may have still cared for Sherman Senior, she was not willing to sleep with him stinking of “alcohol and vomit and piss and shit”. Sherman Alexie is an aggressive and angry man. He has suffered in his life, he has suffered terribly, and perhaps that is why he is quick to anger and quick to exact revenge for any real or imagined slight. My impulse is to call his attacks in this book “counting coup” but counting coup is honorable, a show of courage and skill. These attacks are self-justifying, snarky, and often unfair. Sometimes they are not even skillfully written. I was still young when I first met him, and Alexie was much younger with several books of poetry and only that first collection of fiction when he told my students he wrote prose for the money. If he didn’t need to sell his work he would stick to poetry. That might be the major difference between us. Like his mother, I am a quilter. My father died in 1986 and my mother died in 2007, a week after graduation from my MFA program. After my mother died, I grieved. Everything went dull and even my writing withered for a time. My husband and I had cared for her in her last five years. When she had apologized to me in her last days: “I was mean to you” I responded with absolute sincerity that she never was. But she was mean sometimes. She did hurt me. She bullied me and criticized and was an imperfect mother. She was also smart and kind and helpful and supportive in most ways. It took some time after her death for me to appreciate that this is the best anyone might hope for. According to this memoir, Lilian Alexie could be kind and supportive but also verbally combative and abusive. When Alexie’s good friend died his father played hoops with him for hours. When, days later, he was still crying in his room, his mother opened his door and told him to snap out of it. He took his father’s action as proof of love and his mother’s as proof of cruelty. But which parent got him out of bed? Once or twice a year, Lilian would take it into her head to vacuum in the middle of the night. According to Alexie, this was completely inconsiderate, unbearable, and woke everyone in the house. One night, because he was the strong kid willing to stand up to his mother, Alexie got out of bed, grabbed the vacuum and threw it out the door. When I read this vignette, I sided with his mother. Who else ever bothered to vacuum? She is the one who stayed. Alexie ran away and has never really gone home again. He might at least credit his mother for her willingness to remain with her family, even if he chooses to question her motives. Immediately after her husband died, Joan Didion wrote her memoir: The Year of Magical Thinking. After a lifetime of journalism and research, Didion did what she had always done. She reported with objectivity and poetry about her experience. The result is truthful and beautiful and a powerful exploration of loss and death. Alexie has not done so well. He is too angry and guilty, eager to assign blame and to score points on every person who ever hurt his feelings. He is angry at the man who abused him as a child (me too). He wants everyone in an audience to admire and cheer him, not just most. He is also angry at the Indian woman who called him on his claim for being the voice of all Indians. It was a claim he made in my classroom when he was still in his twenties and later speaking on a panel of people about shared issues of people of color. If Sherman Alexie is to be believed, his suffering is the worst, his people have suffered the most, no one else knows the sorrow he has seen. No one but he has the courage to say it. Only he can speak truth. These feelings are not entirely unjustified, but they get in the way. He has been angry for all this time. One of my students was angry that he misquoted Kurt Cobain while claiming Cobain as his. I was put off when he quoted liberally from another Indian author without once naming his source, or even revealing that his rant was not in his own words but the borrowed words of another person. His memory is impressive. He claims his mother was the last Spokane fluent in the language, but that he never learned a single word of that language. I mentioned that to my husband, who found both claims unlikely. For a while in the 1970s, my husband was one of a handful of fluent speakers of Puget Coast Salish. During the community reading he said a name to Sherman Alexie, the name of a Spokane Indian, and my husband pronounced it perfectly. Sherman walked close and demanded, “What did you say?” but my husband would not repeat it. “I have some naked pictures of your mother,” Alexie said. “I would like to see them,” my husband said. His mother had recently died. Two men wounding each other. My husband’s parents are both dead. We are each the oldest in our families. Alexie has cousins, I have none. We have troubled relationships with our siblings. I have been paying attention since. Sherman Alexie and I have several mutual friends and acquaintances. Perhaps he is a wonderful father and husband [not so much the latter, we now know], but he was a neglectful son and he is not a man to tangle with unless you are prepared to bleed. None of us is perfect and most of us have a list of actions we are not proud of, but Alexie might do better to comes to terms with his own failures and his particular cruelty while criticizing his mother for similar behavior. Like most memoirists, Alexie concedes that his version of events may not parallel versions told by others. Mary Karr warns at the beginning of Liar’s Club that her memories are not the same as her sister’s and mother’s. Mary McCarthy offers a similar disclaimer in Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. In his case, Alexie seems to allow for considerable stretchers. His is a memoir of personal convenience, occasionally confessional, but more often on the attack. Alexie wrote this book and saw it published in the two years following his mother’s death at 78. He also had brain surgery. All of this is too quick. Unlike Didion, he does not have a lifetime habit allowing him to stand apart from his experience in order to tell his story objectively. He does not even try. These are powerful words and considerable rambling, some poetry and some prose broken into lines and stanzas in a pretense of poetry. There is self-justification and enough fury and blame to waste what little insight this brilliant author might otherwise have shared. Alexie declares himself an “urban Indian” in a way that is defensive and tough. He had a hard life and survived to move away. He has kept himself strong by keeping apart. There is a lot more guilt here. He needs to forgive his mother. More than that, he needs to forgive himself before he can recognize that he owes her more than forgiveness. She let him out. He claims he is deliberately repetitive. He claims a lot of things here. If readers take Alexie at his word, they might find a touching if erratic story of a heartbroken son struggling to come to terms with the death of his "complicated" mother. This book was promoted as a memoir about Alexie’s mother, about grief and family and loss and forgiveness. I found it mostly about getting even. On the last page: “I don’t know how or when / My grieving will end, but I’m always / Relearning how to be human again.” I speak from experience: The grieving does not end, and during the year or so after that loss there is almost no sense to it at all for most of us. My advice to readers: Do not read this or his awful novels. Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian which is a circuit of stories. Read the short stories and the poetry. Let Alexie come back in twenty years and write about his mother. At the least he may find some kindness. Maybe the truth isn't funny, and Alexie wants that sharp wit like a stick to poke us. Maybe tenderness makes us vulnerable. It requires a different sort of courage than a streetlight. [Just saw an on-air interview with Smiley. Who is this person? Salish is not a single language but many. The scene at Haight Ashbury was over by the 70s. Who is this man abruptly stating the obvious, which is clear but pretty much unstated in the book, that Sherman and Lilian had/have a great deal in common? His manner is so tender and humble. When has he ever been tender and humble? I do not even recognize his voice. And then later still, Smiley is revealed. I cannot help wondering sometimes if there is a secret school someplace when men learn to behave so badly.]

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    Reviewing an uncorrected Advance Reading Copy; the book will be on sale June 13, 2017. After his mother's death in 2015, Sherman Alexie worked through his complicated memories and emotions in the way he knows best: writing. This book is the result. In poetry and prose, he tells of growing up with a complicated, chaotic family with alcoholic parents, dangerous neighbors and relatives, cruel teachers and social workers. He is the "unreliable narrator of his own life." On nearly every other page, you Reviewing an uncorrected Advance Reading Copy; the book will be on sale June 13, 2017. After his mother's death in 2015, Sherman Alexie worked through his complicated memories and emotions in the way he knows best: writing. This book is the result. In poetry and prose, he tells of growing up with a complicated, chaotic family with alcoholic parents, dangerous neighbors and relatives, cruel teachers and social workers. He is the "unreliable narrator of his own life." On nearly every other page, you will come across a sentence or two that will make you pause to think, feel, muse. Some examples: "I was only seven years old when I first realized that my mother was powerless ... against whiteness in all its forms." "Am I dancing on my mother's grave? Of course, I am! Now shut up and listen to the song." "Because the dead only have the voices we give them." "I don't want to use their names here. Naming them gives them more respect than they deserve." "I vomited because I realized that we Indian kids ... had been treated like prisoners of war, We were guilty of the crime of being Indian." "I don't know how or when My grieving will end, but I'm always Relearning how to be human again."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    This will be short because I'm not sure what to say about this one. It may be the only memoir I ever read where I'm left at the end knowing less about the author than before I started. I have not read any of Alexie's fiction, so maybe the fault is mine. Some of it was powerful, some of it was confusing, a lot of it was repetitive. This will be short because I'm not sure what to say about this one. It may be the only memoir I ever read where I'm left at the end knowing less about the author than before I started. I have not read any of Alexie's fiction, so maybe the fault is mine. Some of it was powerful, some of it was confusing, a lot of it was repetitive.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I absolutely adore Sherman Alexie, so that this gets 5 stars from me shouldn't be a surprise. As always, his writing and poetry are beautiful, and this book is just wonderful, start to finish. Such a fantastic and talented storyteller. I absolutely adore Sherman Alexie, so that this gets 5 stars from me shouldn't be a surprise. As always, his writing and poetry are beautiful, and this book is just wonderful, start to finish. Such a fantastic and talented storyteller.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kony

    This book is Alexie's earnest attempt to give expression to his mixed feelings about his late mother. Like the underlying feelings, these expressions are messy and tangled. The bits of narrative set forth across the 100+ "chapters" are fragmented, repetitive, and self-identified as unreliable. I almost gave up halfway through. Then I took a nap and, upon waking, reached for my Kindle and gave it another go. And then it got better - or maybe Alexie's voice just grew on me. The process of getting This book is Alexie's earnest attempt to give expression to his mixed feelings about his late mother. Like the underlying feelings, these expressions are messy and tangled. The bits of narrative set forth across the 100+ "chapters" are fragmented, repetitive, and self-identified as unreliable. I almost gave up halfway through. Then I took a nap and, upon waking, reached for my Kindle and gave it another go. And then it got better - or maybe Alexie's voice just grew on me. The process of getting into the marrow of this book, for me, was ultimately rewarding although it tested my patience. For quite a stretch, it reads like a slapdash patchwork of half-true memories, speculations, and random thoughts loosely related to Alexie's relationship with his mother. The patterns and themes take a while to emerge, and when they do, they are lovely but don't even pretend to cohere with each other. At times, Alexie hints that this effect is intentional: a metaphor for the patchwork quilts his mother manically produced. I can't help wondering, though, if it's partly just avoidance - because it's mentally and emotionally too hard to do the editorial work required to hone this collection into a more coherent work. If so, I understand. That doesn't dissolve my impatience with it, but I still see the beauty in it and I understand.

  30. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    Writing about grief can’t be easy ... but I really didn’t like this book. Alexie uses incessant repetition as a device. This could’ve easily been half the length. It’s an awkward mix of stream-of-consciousness(esque) rambling and a lot of poetry, much of which is prose poetry, which turns out, I don’t enjoy. I’m a huge memoir fan, but stylistically this did not work for me at all.

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