You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me – Sherman Alexie

If you want to love this book, live this prose poetry, deepen your understanding of a profoundly sad yet moving mother/son relationship, dripping with loss and caring and snapshot after snapshot (or quilt piece after quilt piece) of reservation life in the seventies and eighties… If you want to learn more about a deeply imperfect and supremely talented man, get the audio/audible copy of this book. Alexie reads so well. He uses accents. I find that hearing a poet read his own work is a gift, with the phrasing just right, that you get it. I’m not sure I could have read this in print with half the comprehension. Sherman Alexie has apparently been a sexual harasser/unfaithful husband– and that’s not in this 2017 memoir. I just double-checked what year he was born and up popped the NPR article on his apparent perfidy. I never know what to do with that stuff. It’s not like I ever thought he was a saint. But… it’s disturbing and I don’t like to reward/enable bad behavior. For now, I’ll focus on this book. Sherman (Junior) had a complex, often antagonistic, never-comfortable relationship with his mother, and then she died. And while he does not glorify her as a result of her death, he mourns her and honors her with truth. It feels impossible to describe this book. It’s a memoir so it includes stories of Alexie’s chaotic childhood, with an alcoholic father he adored and an angry mother he was wary of. It also talks a lot about his insight into his life after his manic-depressive diagnosis, brain surgery, the impact of his mother’s death on his siblings, and his realization she was kind and generous to many people. The family had enough, barely, with government assistance and Lillian’s quilt sales. Alexie figured out he had to leave the reservation when he was a teenager, first by attending an all-white high school in a little town 22 miles from home, going to college, finding his soulmate, and always working on his demons. This book is a dream. At times a nightmare. At times, mystical. Often funny. Sometimes narcissistic. A long and winding road with no beginning and no end. It’s lovely. I’m glad I listened to it.

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