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You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  14,019 ratings  ·  2,685 reviews
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,
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Hardcover, 457 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
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Joanne I think it was very brave for Alexie to publish a memoir in such a raw, naked state. It seemed like a deliberate choice because he acknowledges this,…moreI think it was very brave for Alexie to publish a memoir in such a raw, naked state. It seemed like a deliberate choice because he acknowledges this, metaphorically, in comparing this work to one of his mother's quilts. I feel like this work was intended to be therapeutic for Alexie, who is very much stuck in the muck and mire of many sources of grief. I never got the sense that he was trying to assuage it, but maybe just to find a place in his being to let it settle. His wrestling was relentless and tormented. I might have had the expectation of wanting to see some sort of spiritual growth path, but he isn't there yet so I guess I can appreciate that he didn't try to fool us. Trauma is what it is, and he brought his readers fully into the experience of it.(less)
Barbd I agree that the book's exploration of the themes of grief, loss, mid-life, marriage, parenting, racism is done in a way that is too "mature" for 8th…moreI agree that the book's exploration of the themes of grief, loss, mid-life, marriage, parenting, racism is done in a way that is too "mature" for 8th graders. However, most of the chapters could "stand alone" and there are many chapters and poems that would augment the students' reading of Absolutely True Diary. I would recommend the book to kids in grades 10 and up, especially AP English students. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  14,019 ratings  ·  2,685 reviews


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Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
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
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Brina
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
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, ...more
Esil
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
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
...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Julie Ehlers
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
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 ...more
J.L.   Sutton
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Rachel León
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Erin
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: september-2017
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
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David 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
...more
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 ...more
Canadian
”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
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Donalyn
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Stunning. NBA contender. Don't miss this one.
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
...more
Jillybb
Jul 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
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
...more
Ginger
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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Celia
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Meike
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read, usa
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
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Diana
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
...more
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.
jeremy
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-bio
...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
...more
Ellie
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jan Priddy
Aug 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
[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
...more
Pamela
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Taryn Pierson
Well, this is horribly disappointing. Deleting my prior review and going to seek out other Native American voices.
Courtney
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Caitlin
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Kony
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
britt_brooke
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
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.
Shirleen R
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathleen
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Native American Alexie has written 78 stories and 78 poems to honor his mother who died at the age of 78. Lillian was a renowned quilt maker who sold her quilts to help support her family. Alexie’s work mimics the blocks that make up a quilt—each story or poem makes its own statement while contributing to the whole.

Lillian was a ‘difficult’ woman with a sharp tongue, and Alexie appears to have had a conflicted relationship with her. “She protected me against cruelty/Three days a week.” So, this
...more
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Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date.
Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman's best known works
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“Listen. I don't know how or when

My grieving will end, but I'm always
Relearning how to be human again.”
20 likes
“What about me?” I asked. “Am I mean?” “You aren’t mean to me with words,” she said. “You’re mean to me with your silences.” 13 likes
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