Recommended Reading: Sherman Alexie’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”

I was Special Needs kid before needs were considered special.  I was a kid SOMEWHERE ON THE SPECTRUM when the spectrum was only “normal” and “not normal.”  I was The Official Tribal Fool living one hundred years after fools were last thought to be holy. – Sherman Alexie, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

Little Brown asked what we (meaning Books & Books) would do to get Sherman Alexie to Miami.  I would sing an honor song to him, but it would not be enough.  I would tell a funny story about the first time we met and he would take the podium and say, “It’s my job to be the funny Indian in the room” and everyone would laugh, and it would not be enough.  Every poem in You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me whispers and rails from the page like living things.  Every essay in You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me slays, whether it’s poignant, funny, aching, triumphant, or raw.  I could write the review of a lifetime and it would not be enough.

Actually, scratch that; this book nourished my heart and soul.  As a mixed-race man with a Mohawk mother and a family quilted with some dark colors, I can’t step away from something this close to my heart and do anything as trite and trivial as “review” or “recommend”.  You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me helped me live.  I can’t put it any clearer than that.

There is pain in this world.  There are rapes, murders, and tragedies.  There is also heart.  Heart and humor.  Heart, humor, and family.  Heart, humor, family, and friends.  There are quilts and pow wows, kisses and songs, laughter and searing honesty, and there is poetry.  Sherman Alexie weaves all of this into a memoir that chronicles his writing life, his health scares, his family, and most of all his complex relationship with his mother, Lillian Alexie.

Read it and be moved.






3 thoughts on “Recommended Reading: Sherman Alexie’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”

  1. I’m feeling a bit foolish here, because in my review of this book I complained that there’s alot of repetition, and this it seems more like a book of essays (!!!). Is this a book of essays like you said above? I feel like a big idiot if that’s the case haha


    • 78 essays and 78 poems – one for each year of his mother’s life. But it’s not like he wrote them over a period of years and they’ve been published and culled later; they were all written for this book. It’s his mother’s grief song.

      For me the repetition of facts was like the repetition of poetry. I didn’t find it off-putting. More like hammering them home, or how grief can keep surprising you at odd moments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are more generous than I! it just seemed like it needed a stronger edit, but I never really looked it through the lens of poetry that you describe. Hmmmm….


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