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

I taught Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to eighth grade students several years ago, and was lucky to see him speak that same year. I just finished reading his memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (“you” referring to his mother), and truly appreciated his raw honesty. The term “daddy issues” is quite common (especially thanks to the show How I Met Your Mother), though mommy issues are less so.

Either way, he tells us in his Self-Exam poem to “mourn for the children who never knew childhood . . . but there comes a day when a broken child becomes an adult. On that day, you’ll need to choose between the domestic and wild. You’ll need to escalate war or declare peace. [He tells us] this because [he’s] the kid, mother-stung, who became a terrible adult son. And [he’s] to blame for that. [He] made that mess. Because [he is] the Amateur of Forgiveness.”

There comes a time when we must cease from using what happened to us during our childhood to justify our immature adult actions. But how do we do that? Well, in Navigation, the Smartphone (in reference to Siri or Google, perhaps) repeats, “I already told you . . . You gotta forgive your mother.” Or anyone, really.

On a side note, I loved his references on how he was meant to move out and live in the city.

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