Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sherman Alexie on Quilts, Relationships & Racism

I've just finished YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME by Sherman Alexie. It's a memoir centered around his mother, written not long after her death. As with many a mother and children, it's a complicated relationship. I enjoyed the mix of poetry and prose.

I learned Sherman's mother Lilian was a quilter:

My mother made quilts.
She would sew instead of sleep

And rage at sunrise.

- from "The Quilting"

I learned his father was quiet:

My father wouldn't throw a punch or pull a trigger or names names. Silence was his short bow and quiver of arrows.

I learned Sherman is complicated, as we all are:

me with Sherman (NCTE, 2012)
I am the one

who is half monk
And half clown.

Look at me pray!
Look at me pratfall!

I will beg, I will beg
For your devotion

Then do my best
To lead you astray.

- from "Love Parade"

I learned some of Sherman's thoughts on racism:

I have lost track of the number of times a white person, hilariously thinking they were being complimentary, has said to me, “But Sherman, I don't think of you as an Indian.”
Throughout my rural and urban life, among white conservatives and white liberals, I've heard many other variations on the same basic sentiment.
“Sherman, you're not like other Indians.”
“Sherman, you're a credit to your race.”
“Sherman, you barely seem Indian.”
“Sherman, I don't think of you as being Indian. I think of you as being a person.”
“Sherman, you're not just a Native writer. You're a writer.”
“Sherman, I don't see color. I see the person inside.”
All of these statements mean the same thing: “Sherman, in order to fit you and your indigenous identity into my worldview, I have to think of you as being like me – as being white like me.”

Lots to think about. 

Also posting today, my story of "The Summer a Library Saved my Life" over at Smack Dab in the Middle. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. His book is one I hope to read soon, glad to read some words about it from you, Irene. There is much to think about! This quote is filled with many sides: "Silence was his short bow and quiver of arrows."


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