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.