Memoir is a hard genre for me to embrace, but these books were powerful eye openers. Both of these men stopped the cycle of poverty and abuse, through their choices and owning their stories. Never victimizing their misfortune, but simply stating the truth of tough circumstances. Their lives are somewhat parallel, despite cultural differences, I recommend reading both, they are fascinating to compare and contrast.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie’s book helped me recognize and rectify the stereotypes I had formed about Indians and life on a reservation. Sherman grew up in Spokane on a reservation. I had never understood all layers of pain, loss, and abuse that built the foundation for many Indians in America. I cried reading his childhood memories of white teachers abusing him and his classmates daily during school. The atrocities are horrific, the potential for evil against our fellow human beings is overwhelming. As I read I kept rejoicing in knowing this story so I can choose the light, instead of the dark. Sherman grew up in a half-finished barely insulated home. He endured winter months without light or heat, waiting for Sherman’s mother to sew a quilt, sell it, and pay the utility bills.
Sherman Alexie endured such immense pain in his youth, some inflicted by his mother, some by the reservation community. Sherman retells his mother’s history as best he can, she was a consistent liar, so he has pieced her years together through siblings and relatives stories mixed with his mothers. He chronicles the abuse she survived, his memories of her, and his journey to forgive her. He captures the essence of loving and being loved by deeply flawed people. Pain mixed with tender adoration, mixed with rage, mixed with mourning. If you read only a few books this year, put this on your list. It is necessary to understand the evils others have endured to fight for the good in this world. Read it with your book club, it is moving, hard, tender, and wonderful, and gut wrenching. Worth every moment spent reading.
To Purchase this book, click here:You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir
The Hillbilly Elegy
I can see why Hillbilly Elegy struck such a chord with readers. As a West Coast resident for twenty years, it helped explain the hopelessness of towns left with no economy. J.D’s story could be told from any poor part of the United States. At the heart, it is the story of growing up with violence and trauma in your home and those residual effects. I have met children in Seattle who have stories like J.D.’s. However, his story is intensified by the culture of drugs and joblessness in his rural residence. This book reads like a story, at times you cannot believe his experiences, but also cannot stop reading. I thought a lot about the recovery process, the healing an abused brain and heart has go through. Reading J.D.’s story, it is inspiring to see his tenacity for creating healthy habits, and breaking away from patterns of destruction. His story ended with an impressive degree from Yale Law. However, after living through J.D’s story, going to college, staying off drugs, and contributing to society is simply impressive. This book led to very thoughtful discussion, a thoughtful book for book clubs.
To Order on Amazon, click here: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis