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review 2017-10-12 17:34
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir - Sherman Alexie

This is an unusual book and not what I expected, so my rating may not predict yours (as readers so far have loved it wildly, it probably doesn’t). I hadn’t read anything by Alexie before and chose this over Part-Time Indian because I enjoy memoirs but not YA. But this is far from a typical memoir, which tells the story of the author’s life – usually focusing on a particular aspect or theme – in chronological chapters. The first chapter, which has 19 pages and focuses – despite various digressions – on a crucial event from the author’s childhood, fits into that pattern and had me enthralled. But this is in no way representative of the book as a whole. It consists of 156 chapters, ranging from short to extremely short (though the page count may appear long for a memoir, I’d guess the word count is in line with that of your typical 250- to 300-page book). Half of the chapters are poems. The prose chapters are sometimes only a paragraph long, more commonly 2-4 pages.

These brief essays and poems don’t exactly tell the story of Alexie’s life. He wrote the book while grieving for his mother, and much of it revolves around her, but much of it (especially the poetry) is about grief itself. Another big topic is a brain surgery he had a few months after his mother’s death. So much of the book comes across as the author reflecting on his life as it is now rather than telling the story of where he’s been. To the extent it’s about where he’s been, information about his childhood is scattered throughout the book, while everything after that is even more partial and fragmented. Or maybe it’s just that the information about his adult life didn’t answer the questions I had: he mentions only in passing that he struggled with alcoholism as a young adult, causing him to change colleges, but writes an entire chapter about how the laundry room in his current home was extremely cold until he finally bought some curtains for the basement.

Meanwhile, I have little appreciation for poetry, particularly free verse, which much of Alexie’s poetry is. If there’s something to be said for free verse, it’s that it is a recognized format in which to briefly encapsulate a moment, a thought or a feeling. But this is a large book; I didn’t want brief. And I didn’t want fragments. This book is made up of fragments, which is a deliberate and valid artistic choice: Alexie writes about how much of his history – personal, familial, and cultural – has been lost, and leaving holes is his way of representing that. For me though, the effect was to leave me disconnected from the work, which lessened the impact of the artistic choices.

All that said, this is in no way a bad book. It is well-written and engaging. It is raw and personal and feels emotionally honest. I zoomed through it in a few sittings, not only because bite-sized chapters are addictive but because it is so personal and emotionally intense. It certainly provides some cultural education for the non-native reader: the author grew up on the Spokane Indian reservation, where much of his family still lives, and writes about his Native American identity. Although it left me somewhat dissatisfied, I am glad I read this book and wouldn’t discourage others from reading it, particularly those who enjoy poetry.

(As an aside, a brief mention in this book alerted me to the danger of indoor radon, so who knows, Sherman Alexie may have saved my life.)

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review 2017-07-19 18:20
You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir - Sherman Alexie

This memoir surprised me. I was surprised how open, honest and free Sherman was in this novel. I am not one who follows celebrities, reads celebrity magazines to be in- the-know or digs into their past so I know all the juicy gossip so when Sherman starts to talk about his personal life in this memoir, I was amazed to know that his life was less than ideal. I appreciated his openness and his wiliness to share his life with his readers.

 

He talks a lot about his mother, hence the title and the picture on the cover, inside this novel as she was a unique individual. She was an alcoholic just like his father, only she quit drinking before her death. She knew the ways, the customs, and the stories from the old world, she was their connection to the past and now that she has passed away, their connection is lost. A connection, that they can never replace. At the funeral, Sherman comes to the realization that there were two sides to his mother and this awareness adds flames to the fire that is burning in Sherman over his mother. He has lost her, lost more than he originally thought. He has chosen to live off the rev all these years and that is something that he cannot take back. Again, it is the emotions, the anger, the love and the confusion that runs through these pages that allows me to see his family and how they dealt with life. Sherman’s phrasing repeated over and over again, his “sometimes you just don’t know” comments repeated throughout the novel because in reality, you just don’t know and it’s okay to admit it. I enjoyed how his family size grew as they helped out each other and how their relatives knew they could count on each other in times of need.

 

I found the following parts of the novel especially heartfelt: When Sherman talks about racism, I could feel his pain in his writing. As Sherman mentions the nurses when he was sick, I especially enjoyed this because sometimes we forget these important people in our lives. I cannot forget the waltz his mother did with his sister. Tears were forming in my eyes as I read this short chapter. After accidently spilling water on her as she was getting a drink, his sister stood their morphine-drugged mother up to change her clothing and sheets. As the sister instructed her where to step and how many steps, mother swayed. ““It’s okay,” our mother said. “I’m dancing on purpose. I want to dance. Dance with me.” It was three in the morning but our mother was awake and she shuffled left and right. “Oh,” our mother said. “We are dancing. It’s been so long since I danced. And I don’t know why nobody asked me. I was a good dancer.” My sister laughed. She was alone in the night with our mother. There was no music. But my sister held our mother closely and shuffled with her. They moved in the smallest of circles. “We only danced for a few seconds,” my sister later said. “But, all the next day, whenever she was awake and had visitors, Mom kept bragging that she’d danced until sunrise.”” I loved this.

 

The memoir consists of short chapters of poems and narratives. It is a big book, a book that I really enjoyed. Thanks again Sherman, thanks for being one of us.

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review 2017-07-17 18:35
Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie
Reservation Blues - Sherman Alexie

This is my first Alexie and not my last. I'm struggling with what to say about it and how because somehow this not-huge novel feels like it's packed in everything about Indian (as they refer to themselves) culture with its focus on a particular reservation and a rock band's steep rise and fall. It does so with deadpan humor and a mix of the fantastic and real that calls to mind magical realism but is distinctive. It's necessarily sad yet not depressing--there's the humor, and there's wonder and hope. There's not an insignificant or uncharismatic character in the book. I feel like I've taken a long, strange trip with them and wish them well.

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review 2016-12-31 01:47
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Ellen Forney,Sherman Alexie

This is one book that I feel like I missed out on reading during my high school years, and I’ve always been sad about it; I’ve even owned a copy for at least 3 years, and I still wasn’t able to read it until recently, so finishing this was somewhat of a personal accomplishment for me. Not because it’s such a hard book or anything, but because this is a recent classic that I’ve been wanting to read for so long. It feels especially close to me, because while I am very much not related to any Native Americans, my grandfather lived in Spokane, WA for almost all his life, and he even lived on the Spokane reservation with his girlfriend for a large part of his later life, so it’s interesting to get a sense of the place my grandfather called home.

 

First, I have to say that this book is lovely. It’s about a boy named Junior who lives on the Indian reservation in Spokane, and he decides to go to the “white” high school to try to build a future for himself. I was able to read through it quickly because it’s a pretty easy read and it is so, so entertaining and hits on some very real, true-life events that were inspired by Alexie’s own life. It’s wonderful that this book is out there for teens to read when they’re feeling like an outsider, because the main character is pretty much the ultimate outsider in a lot of ways and reading about his feelings about that and how he deals with it is somehow comforting.

 

What makes this Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a success is the fact that it covers everything. It’s funny and yet incredibly heartbreaking, reflecting real life in a way that most stories don’t even come close to, which I think is a reflection of its large autobiographical influence. It comes across as honest and genuine, which is something that is lacking in fiction sometimes, and which YA fiction especially needs. The illustrations are an added bonus and give further insight into Junior’s character and his overall mood at the time he’s “writing” his diary entries. They’re incorporated well and I loved reading Forney’s explanations for why each illustration was done the way it was.

 

There’s a reason why this is such a classic, and I don’t know what I can say that others haven’t, except that I personally liked this a lot and think it belongs on the must-read lists of everyone, because it is such a powerful, wonderful story.

Source: www.purplereaders.com/?p=2527
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review 2016-12-08 03:07
Good book, awful narration
The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part Time Indian - Sherman Alexie

 

Ok, so I know this book is a classic and my daughter had to read it for school. So, I decided to listen to it on audio while I was driving in my car. The author narrated the book and I hated the way he spoke and the voices he used. They seemed whiny and annoying most of the time. I am certain this affected the way I felt about the book.

 

The story was touching, funny and heartbreaking at times. It seemed a bit too pushy with the "all Indians are drunks" thing and that sort of bothered me. But, the main character, Junior, is inspirational in that he decides he wants something better for himself and takes the chance to go to an all white school to find it. He is brave, crazy, stupid, and funny all at the same time. Leaving the reservation to go to a different school is huge and causes a lot of turmoil in Junior's life, but he struggles through it.

 

In my opinion, if you are interested in this book, skip the audio and just read it yourself. :)

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