Sherman Alexie

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

“The primal need for stories is the most important thing in anybody’s life…we’re all still children being read to.” Over an astonishing 26 books in 25 years, Sherman Alexie has devoted himself to what he calls the “sacred” task of telling the truth through stories. In this episode of the podcast, Miwa Messer talks with Alexie about his new memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, a viscerally funny, tragic, and honest rendering of the author’s childhood, his mother Lillian’s life, and the way her outsized persona shaped the storytelling wizard her son would become.

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Family relationships are never simple. But Sherman Alexie’s bond with his mother Lillian was more complex than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit, but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past, but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers, but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It’s these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated, and very human woman.

When Lillian passed away, the incongruities that defined his mother shook Sherman and his remembrance of her. Grappling with the haunting ghosts of the past in the wake of loss, he responded the only way he knew how: he wrote.

About the Author

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction, a PEN/Hemingway Citation for Best First Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Sherman Alexie is a poet, short story writer, novelist and performer. A Spokane/Couer d’Alene Indian, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Alexie has been an urban Indian since 1994 and lives in Seattle with his family.

Explore all of Sherman Alexie’s books here.

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