Thursday, December 14, 2017

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is one of the most affecting memoirs I’ve ever read. I didn’t read it as much as I inhaled it. I listened to it while driving and had to request the hardcover of it from my library as I’d come home from errands with a visceral need to see the words on the page as I couldn’t leave them or allow them leave me. Alexie reads the audio in what he might describe as a diminishing “rez” accent and when he choked up, I did too. This portrait of poverty and the effects of prejudice on our indigenous people, will make you alternately sob and laugh out loud. It’s one of the best portrayals of grief I’ve ever read. If the ‘F” word bothers you, get used to hearing it, as you don’t want to miss this one. He sews together chapters alternating between free verse and prose just as his mother sewed her intricate quilts. His therapist’s metaphor of a bird shaking off its pain is one I hope I’ll always remember to use and one that those in the helping professions should have in their toolboxes.

Almost every page features sentences like these: "I didn't grow up in a dream house. I lived in a wooden improvisation." "My parents sold blood for money to buy food. Poverty was our spirit animal." "If attics are the eggs, then steamer trunks are the yolks."

This will be a short review as I don't want to describe this book, I simply want to beg you to devour it and make it a part of you. All you need to know about You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is that it's magnificent. I'm what Alexie calls his audience: “College-educated white women. That’s who buys and reads our books in mass numbers. To say otherwise is to either be purposefully or accidentally a liar. That said, my ideal reader is a poor, weird brown kid. And I get enough letters from them. When a weird brown kid says, ‘This story meant this to me,’ that’s the power.” I, too, hope this story gets into the hands of a "poor, weird brown kid." My imagination isn't vast enough to fathom how much this book might mean to that kid, but thankfully, Alexie's is.

Summing It Up: You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Anyone who wants to understand grief, poverty, alcoholism, the affect of the reservation on Native Americans, or any reader who simply wants to listen to or read an incredible book should read this. It would have topped my 2017 Best Nonfiction List if I'd read it before my self-imposed November 30 deadline. It was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Rating: 5 stars    

Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Gourmet, Road Food, Soul Food, Book Club

Publication date: June 13, 2017

Fresh Air Interview with the Author:

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