Sherman Alexie's memoir You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is a mournful, harrowing book written after the death of his mother at the age of 78, with whom he had a complicated but loving relationship. Through 78 poems, 78 essays, and countless family photographs, Alexie walks readers through his unique childhood on an Indian Reservation. Raised by two alcoholic parents who didn't have much money, Alexie recounts the hardships, heartbreaks, and good times he and his family experienced. Perhaps more importantly, though, the book clues readers into Alexie's relationship with his mother: her abuse, her love, and ultimately, just how complicated and messy it was.
At release, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me garnered almost universal acclaim. Claudia Rowe of The Seattle Times wrote that the book "pulls readers so deeply into the author's youth on the Spokane Indian Reservation that most will forget all about facile comparisons and simply surrender to Alexie's unmistakable patois of humor and profanity, history and pathos." You Don't Have to Say You Love me also won the National Book Award and became an "instant" New York Times bestseller, indicating readers loved the book and bought it in droves.