Girl Logic:  The Genius and the Absurdity
Iliza Shlesinger, 2017
Hachette Book Group
264 pp.

From breakout stand-up comedian Iliza Shlesinger comes a subversively funny collection of essays and observations on a confident woman's approach to friendship, singlehood, and relationships.

Girl Logic is Iliza's term for the way women obsess over details and situations that men don't necessarily even notice.

She describes it as a characteristically female way of thinking that appears to be contradictory and circuitous but is actually a complicated and highly evolved way of looking at the world.

When confronted with critical decisions about dating, sex, work, even getting dressed in the morning, Iliza argues that women will by nature consider every repercussion of every option before making a move toward what they really want. And that kind of holistic thinking can actually give women an advantage in what is still a male world.

In Iliza's own words: "Understanding Girl Logic is a way of embracing both our aspirations and our contradictions. GL is the desire to be strong and vulnerable. It's wanting to be curvy, but rail thin at the same time. It's striving to kick ass in a man's world while still being loved by the women around you.

"This book is also for me, because apparently expounding on a stage for two hours a night wasn't enough. (Trust me, if I could start a cult I would, but I hate the idea of deliberately dying in a group.)" (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—February 22, 1983
Where—Dallas, Texas, USA
Education—B.A., Emerson College
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California

Iliza Vie Shlesinger is an American comedian. She was the 2008 winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing and went on to host the syndicated dating show Excused and the TBS comedy/game show Separation Anxiety. Currently, she hosts a late-night talk show called Truth & Iliza on Freeform. In 2017, she published a memoir and collection of humorous essays titled Girl Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity.

Early life
Shlesinger was born in Dallas to a Reform Jewish family. She attended the private Greenhill School and participated on the school's improvisation team and also performed with ComedySportz Dallas. She started college at the University of Kansas for but transferred aftervher freshman year to Emerson College in Boston, where she majored in film. At Emerson, Shelesinger was a member of the campus's comedy sketch group, Jimmy's Traveling All Stars, and refined her writing and editing skills.

Shortly after graduating from Emerson, she moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue stand-up comedy. Becoming one of the most popular members of the Whiteboy Comedy group of standup comedians in Los Angeles, she headed to the stage at The Improv in Hollywood.

In 2007, Shlesinger won Myspace's "So You Think You're Funny" contest and has been featured as the G4 network's Myspace Girl of the Week. Her television credits include E! Network's Forbes Celebrity 100, TV Guide's America's Next Top Producer, Comedy Central Presents (Season 14 Episode 18), John Oliver's New York Stand Up Show, Byron Allen's Comics Unleashed, and History Channel's History of a Joke. She has written for and had her own show on GOTV's mobile network.

In 2008, Shlesinger became the first woman, and the youngest, winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing, in the series' sixth season. She was twice selected, by other comedians, to compete in the head-to-head eliminations, and won each time. She appeared in The Last Comic Standing Tour.

Shlesinger contributed to Surviving the Holidays, a History Channel holiday special, with Lewis Black, and narrated the 2009 documentary Imagine It!² The Power of Imagination. In 2010, she released an on-demand comedy video, Man Up and Act Like a Lady, and an on-demand comedy album, iliza LIVE, on her website, via The ConneXtion. Around the time of these releases, Shlesinger appeared in a business comedy video series for Slate.

Shlesinger hosted The Weakly News on from July 7, 2007 to April 9, 2012. She also hosted Excused, a syndicated American reality-based dating competition series, which ran from 2011 to 2013. She co-stars in the 2013 film Paradise and began a podcast called Truth and Iliza in August 2014. Featuring celebrity guests & personal friends, the semi-weekly podcast is a forum for discussing things which bother her and those on the show, with punk theme song performed by Being Mean to Pixley.

Shlesinger's first comedy album and video, War Paint, was recorded at the Lakewood Theater in Dallas, Texas, and released on Netflix in September, 2013. Her second stand-up special, Freezing Hot, was recorded in Denver, Colorado, and premiered on Netflix in January, 2015.  Her third Netflix stand-up special, titled Confirmed Kills, was recorded at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, and premiered on Netflix in September, 2016.

Shlesinger was comic co-host of StarTalk Radio Show with Neil DeGrasse Tyson for season 7, episode 12 titled "Cosmic Queries: Galactic Grab Bag," post date: 20 May 2016.

On July 13, 2016, the ABCdigital original short-form digital comedy series Forever 31, created by and starring Shlesinger was released. Truth & Iliza began airing on May 2, 2017. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Released 11/14/2017.)

Book Reviews
Iliza is funny, fierce, and lightning fast, but don't let all that wit and beauty fool you — she's a feminist with the heart of a mommy, a truth teller who just wants us all to feel better so we can get what we want, dammit! She's thought long and hard about why women are so hard on themselves, and she's not afraid to say she's been there herself, which has endeared her already to millions of fans. Take my advice: take her advice. Iliza is a comedian wrapped in social critic wrapped in the good friend you need.
Robbie Myers - Elle, editor in chief

A successful comedian tries to square gender stereotypes with the realities of how women really live…. Unfortunately, the intended lessons are often lost in the author's frenetic chatter.… [T]his reads like a series of theories not yet fully formed.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Girl Logic … then take off on your own:

1. How would you describe the tone of this book? Is it chatty, light, serious, angry, engagingly friendly? Were you pulled in right at the beginning … or a bit further in … or not at all?

2. Are you familiar with Iliza Shlesinger's stand-up comedy? If you are or not, do you think it helps (or would help) readers appreciate Girl Logic? Does she write like a stand-up comedienne talks? Does her brand of comedy translate to the page, or is it lost in translation?

3. Shlesinger talks about her upbringing. How did her childhood and early years prepare her for stand-up, a fiercely competitive and rigorous career?

4. What does she have to say about her treatment on the road by her male counterparts?

5. Some readers have complained that Shlesinger's observations about women are overly generalized and unhelpful. Some found her examples irrelevant — they didn't relate to a pair of designer trousers possibly changing their lives. Does some of the material in the book strike you similarly: as overly broad or irrelevant? Or is this just mild carping? What are your thoughts? Are any of Shlesinger's observations, suggestions, and insights helpful to you? Does age, older or younger, play a role in how a reader might experience the book?

6. How do the workings of the female mind differ from the male mind. Does the explanation ring true — does it make sense to you?

7. So … why are women so hard on themselves?

8. Describe the theory of Girl Logic and its many conundrums. Shlesinger, for instance, believes that women's desires are often in conflict with one another. What are examples from you own life?  What else does Shlesinger have to say about GL? Does anything in particular resonate with you?

9. Do you find some of Shlesinger's language offensive, bordering on offensive, or refreshingly honest?

10. What are some of the take away tips you got from Girl Logic? Consider, for example, the author's advice about cultivating both confidence and courage to be different? What else struck you?

11. Is this a book that males, young or old, could or should read? Would you pass it on to one?

(Questions issued by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

American Wolf:  A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West 
Nate Blakeslee, 2017
320 pp.

The enthralling story of the rise and reign of O-Six, the celebrated Yellowstone wolf, and the people who loved or feared her.
Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West.

With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother.

She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly renowned naturalist Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world.

But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park’s stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley.

These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multigenerational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the ongoing cultural clash in the West — between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country’s most iconic landscapes. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Nate Blakeslee is a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly. His first book, Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town, was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Texas Institute of Letters non-fiction prize, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2005. The Washington Post called it one of the most important books about wrongful convictions ever written. He lives in Austin, Texas with his family. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Most compelling is the story of O-Six, Yellow Stone’s biggest celebrity. Named for the year she was born, she is beautiful and mesmerizing, admired by thousands of fans across the U.S. who have been captivated by her exploits. We also follow a single hunter whose path she crosses.… But this story is larger than a single wolf and a single hunter. American Wolf Is an epic tale of generations of alphas and pups, of competing interests and declining fortunes, human resentments and grudging compromise — all played out against Nature’s eternal beauty. The book is thought-provoking and eye-opening — and a superb read. Highly recommended.  READ MORE …
P.J. Adler - LitLovers

In American Wolf, Blakeslee does a fine job presenting the wolf’s basic biological requirements, from abundant prey source (in Yellowstone, the overpopulation of elk) to secure denning sites. But he also illustrates the far more complicated and ever-dynamic human elements affecting the wolves. The politics of ranchers — some for wolves, others against — and antigovernment zealots, hunting outfitters, Congress, courts and judges, and tourism operators all exert a sculpting pressure on where and how and if the wolf can live.
Rick Bass - New York Times Book Review

American Wolf…explores the clash over Canis lupus, the gray wolf, with a story told through the life of O-Six and the humans who loved her. Author Nate Blakeslee… tells a masterful and elegant tale. Nature enthusiasts or lovers of narrative-nonfiction will enjoy the book
Associated Press

Engaging.… [A] must read for researchers, citizen scientists, and visitors to Yellowstone, where the story of the wolves continues to evolve.

[American Wolf] reads like a novel.… [A] testament to the genius of Blakeslee’s tautly constructed narrative.

Blakeslee takes readers into the snowy [Lamar Valley], and deep into a genuinely human tale told with the energy and verve of a bestselling thriller. A tight, dense narrative, American Wolf races along like a predator on the hunt.
Texas Observer

(Starred review.) Beautiful, detailed.… [American Wolf] centers on the rise, reign, and family life of O-Six, matriarch of the Lamar Canyon pack and so well-known to park visitors that the New York Times gave her an obituary.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Utterly compelling.… Blakeslee’s masterly use of fiction writing techniques to ratchet up the tension will hook a wide swath of readers
Library Journal

(Starred review.) The fight…[over] Yellowstone’s wolves is embodied in O-Six’s story, told with great immediacy and empathy in a tale that reads like fiction. This one will grab readers and impel them into the heart of the conflict.

American Wolf is an essential read for anyone interested in a fascinating piece of American history and learning more about an important issue that continues to plague the West. Stephanie Coleman, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
Indie Next List

In the main, Blakeslee's well-rendered story will be familiar to anyone who has followed the Yellowstone wolves, but those who have not will find this a solid overview of recent events—evenhanded but clearly and rightly on the side of the wolves.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for American Wolf … then take off on your own:

1. Start, perhaps, by putting the wolf in a historical context. Talk about the wolf's place in American history: the original numbers at the beginning of colonization, the eradication programs, the wolf's near extinction, its listing and de-listing as a protected animal.

2. What have you learned about wolves after reading Blakeslee's book? What do they feed on, how do they survive the harsh landscape and winters, what are the social hierarchies within their packs or between packs? Did anything surprise you about them, their behavior, their food sources?

3. In what way does the wolf reflect this country's cultural/political divide? Talk about the various factions … and lay out their respective points of view regarding the rights of wolves to populate and propagate in the West.

4. What side of the argument do you place yourself on? Does Blakeslee do a good job of giving all sides a say — is he fair? Can you understand the points on the opposing sides, even if you might disagree with them?

5. Follow-up to Question 4: if there's a hero in the book, who would it be?

6. Is there a foreseeable solution to the wolf problem?
7. Ed Bangs, the Fish and Wildlife biologist who had directed the wolf recovery project since 1988, once observed that "What we normally mean by "education" is, I want someone else to know as much as I know so they'll have my values" (131 p.). Is that how you see the idea of educating the pubic — more as a means of rhetorical persuasion than providing information? Or do you believe Bangs's view is bit cynical? If so, then what does educating the public mean? Or what should it mean?

(Questions issued by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

A Land Twice Promised:  An Israeli Woman's Quest for Peace
Noa Baum, 2016
340 pp.

Israeli storyteller Noa Baum grew up in Jerusalem in the shadow of the ancestral traumas of the holocaust and ongoing wars. Stories of the past and fear of annihilation in the wars of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s shaped her perceptions and identity.

In America, she met a Palestinian woman who had grown up under Israeli Occupation, and as they shared memories of war years in Jerusalem, an unlikely friendship blossomed.

A Land Twice Promised delves into the heart of one of the world’s most enduring and complex conflicts. Baum’s deeply personal memoir recounts her journey from girlhood in post­-Holocaust Israel to her adult encounter with “the other.” With honesty, compassion, and humor, she captures the drama of a nation at war and her discovery of humanity in the enemy.

This compelling memoir demonstrates the transformative power of art and challenges each reader to take the first step toward peace. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Jerusalem, Israel
Education—B.F.A., Tel Aviv University; M.A.E., New York University
Awards—Parents' Choice Recommended Award; Storytelling World Award
Currently—lives in Washington, D.C.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, Noa Baum is an award-winning storyteller who combines performance art with practical applications of storytelling in business, community and education.

Noa performs and teaches internationally with diverse audiences ranging from The World Bank, US. Defense Department, prestigious universities and congregations, to inner city schools and detention centers. She is a winner of a Parents' Choice Recommended Award and a Storytelling World Award, and a recipient of numerous Individual Artist Awards from Maryland State Arts Council and Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County. She has lived in the US since 1990. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
In this touching and honest memoir, Baum shares the story of how her search for peace informed her life.… Although not everyone will agree with her leftist political perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Baum's genuine desire to make a difference may well inspire others to do the same.
Publishers Weekly

Impressively well written, organized and presented, A Land Twice Promised: An Israeli Woman's Quest for Peace is a compelling, thoughtful and thought-provoking read.
Midwest Review

The book provokes empathy and insight, and will lead most readers to embrace a view of Israel and the Palestinian conflict that is both complex and compassionate."
Jewish Independent, Canada

Discussion Questions
The following questions have been graciously submitted to LitLovers by Maggie Bailey from Bull Valley, Illinois. Thank you Maggie!

1. Are there parallels you can draw between the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the current political situation in the US?

2. How has the press contributed to the divisiveness in both the US and Israel?

3. Have you ever experienced a friendship like the one between Noa and Jumana, where your perceived differences were so immense that a friendship was unlikely?

4. What role has storytelling played in your life? Are you a storyteller?  Who are the storytellers in your life?

5. The book seems to serve different listed purposes. It is the story of history told from different perspectives.

  • It is the story of an incredible friendship between two women
  • It is the story of a seemingly unending, unresolvable conflict
  • It is the story of how Noa became a storyteller
  • It is the story of one woman’s attempt to begin to bring peace to a troubled land
  • It is the story of the evolution of Noa’s perception of and relationship with her mother

   —How successful was Noa in achieving each of these purposes?

6. Are there traumatic events from your childhood that you believe shaped your political and worldviews?

7. Yaakov, who was killed when he was only twenty-two, is sanctified and idolized my Noa’s mother. How have you reacted when a deceased (from your life) is portrayed as nothing short of perfection? Examples both personal and political, perhaps?

8. “We were never taught to hate them. It is only that they hate us, and what can we do? We have no choice but to defend ourselves.” How has this common attitude affected efforts toward building peace over the last few thousand years?

9. Give some examples from the story of the juxtaposition of the mundane and the elaborate ritual. (e.g. Noa worrying about getting an itch during the 120 seconds of standing during the yearly Holocaust Memorial Day.)

10. Noa began her storytelling career early with the saga of her imaginary brother Yigal, the heroic soldier. Have you (or your kids) ever woven such an elaborate story about an imaginary person?

11. (LitLovers Generic Questions): What are some specific passages that struck you as significant… What was memorable?
12.  Has this book changed your attitude toward Israel? Palestine? In what ways?

13. Can learning each other’s stories actually solve seemingly unsolvable conflicts? How? Consider the following quotations:

  • "An enemy is one whose story we have not heard." —Gene Knudsen-Hoffman
  • "People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell.” —Elie Wiesel
  • “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” —Gandhi.

From Noa Baum: Hard questions remain:

  • Who will control the important town of East Jerusalem, including the old city, which is home to ancient religious sites sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

  • Will the Palestinians ever be permitted to establish a free state, independent of Israel? What will be its borders?

  • What will happen to Palestinian refugee families, some of whom have now lived in camps for generations? Will they be allowed to return to a Palestinian State? Will any be allowed back into Israel, or will they be compensated economically?

  • What will happen to the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories?

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority insist that they have offered reasonable compromises, but that the other side will not accept them. Meanwhile, the violence continues. But citizen to citizen exchanges also continues, and the hope for reconciliation and peace is still alive in the hearts of many Israelis and Palestinians.

(Questions developed by Maggie Bailey and offered to LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me:  A Memoir
Sherman Alexie, 2017
Little, Brown and Co.
464 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780316270755

A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, loss, and forgiveness from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award-winning author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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 she 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.

The result is a stunning memoir filled with raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine, much less survive. An unflinching and unforgettable remembrance, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is a powerful, deeply felt account of a complicated relationship. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—October 7, 1966
Raised—Spokane, Washington, Indian Reservation
Education—B.A., Washington State University
Awards—National Book Award; PEN/Faulkner Award
Currently—lives in Seattle, Washington

Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. is an American poet, writer, and filmmaker. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a Native American with ancestry of several tribes, growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Alexie was born  in 1966 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington, and spent his childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation, located west of Spokane. His father, Sherman Joseph Alexie, was a member of the Coeur d'Alene tribe (though a grandfather was of Russian descent). Alexie's mother, Lillian Agnes Cox, was of Colville, Choctaw, Spokane and European American ancestry.

Alexie was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that occurs when there is an abnormally large amount of cerebral fluid in the cranial cavity. He underwent brain surgery when he was only six months old and was not expected to survive or, if he did, would be at high risk of mental disabilities. Alexie's surgery was successful and he survived with no mental damage but had other effects.

His father was an alcoholic who often left the house for days at a time. To support her six children, Alexie's mother Lillian sewed quilts and worked as a clerk at the Wellpinit Trading Post.

Alexie has described his life at the reservation school as challenging because he was constantly teased by other kids. He was nicknamed "The Globe" because his head was larger than usual due to the hydrocephalus. Until the age of seven, Alexie suffered from seizures and bedwetting and had to take strong drugs to control them. Because of his health problems, he was excluded from many of the activities that are rites of passage for young Indian males. However, he excelled academically, reading everything available, including auto repair manuals.

In order to better his education, Alexie decided to leave the reservation and attend high school in Reardan, Washington, 22 miles off the reservation. The only Native American student, he excelled at his studies, became a star player on the basketball team, and was elected class president. He was also a member of the debate team.

His success in high school won him a scholarship in 1985 to Gonzaga University, a Roman Catholic university in Spokane. Originally enrolling in the pre-med program, he found he was squeamish during dissection in his anatomy classes. He switched to law but found that unsuitable, as well. Feeling pressure to succeed and beset with anxieity, he began drinking.

In 1987 Alexie dropped out of Gonzaga and enrolled at Washington State University. He was at a low point in his life when he enrolled in a creative writing course taught by Alex Kuo, a respected poet of Chinese-American background. Kuo served as a mentor to Alexie and gave him Songs of This Earth on Turtle's Back, an anthology by Joseph Bruchac. It was a book, Alexie later said, that changed his life—teaching him "how to connect to non-Native literature in a new way." He remained similarly inspired, however, by Native American poets.

With his new appreciation of poetry, Alexie started work on his first collection, The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Viviane Poems, published in 1992. With that success, Alexie stopped drinking and quit school just three credits short of a degree. Three years later, however, in 1995 he finally attained his bachelor's from Washington State University.

Short stories
Some of Alexie's best-known works are The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), a collection of short stories, and Smoke Signals (1998), a film based on that collection, for which he also wrote the screenplay.

His stories have been included in several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories 2004, edited by Lorrie Moore; and Pushcart Prize XXIX of the Small Presses. Additionally, a number of his pieces have been published in various literary magazines and journals, as well as online publications.

His 2009 collection of short stories and poems, War Dances, won the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Alexie's first novel, Reservation Blues (1995), revisits some of the characters from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Victor Joseph, and Junior Polatkin, who have grown up together on the Spokane Indian reservation, were teenagers in the short story collection. In Reservation Blues they are now adult men in their thirties. The novel received one of the fifteen 1996 American Book Awards.

Indian Killer (1996) is a murder mystery set among Native American adults in contemporary Seattle, where the characters struggle with urban life, mental health, and the knowledge there is a serial killer on the loose.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) is a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age story that began as a memoir of Alexie's life and family on the Spokane Indian reservation. The novel focuses on a fourteen-year-old Indian named Arnold Spirit and won the 2007 U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature. It also won the Odyssey Award as best 2008 audiobook for young people (read by the author himself).

In 1998 Alexie broke barriers by creating the first all-Indian movie, Smoke Signals. Alexie based the screenplay on his short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and characters and events from a number of Alexie's works make appearances in the film.

The Business of Fancydancing, written and directed by Alexie in 2002, explores themes of Indian identity, cultural involvement vs. blood quantum, living on the reservation or off it, and other issues around what makes someone a "real Indian." The title refers to the protagonist's choice to leave the reservation and make his living performing for predominantly white audiences. Much of the dialogue was improvised, based on real events in the actors' lives.

Style and themes
Alexie's poetry, short stories and novels explore themes of despair, poverty, violence, and alcoholism in the lives of Native American people living on and off the reservation. Although exploring grim subjects, the works are leavened by wit and humor.

According to Sarah A. Quirk from the Dictionary of Library Biography, Alexie asks three questions across all of his works:

What does it mean to live as an Indian in this time?
What does it mean to be an Indian man?
What does it mean to live on an Indian reservation

The protagonists in most of his literary works exhibit a constant struggle with themselves and their own sense of powerlessness in white American society.

Alexie’s writings "blends elements of popular culture, Indian spirituality, and the drudgery of poverty-ridden reservation life to create his characters and the world they inhabit," according to Quirk. His work is laced with often startling humor.

In 2005, Alexie became a founding board member of Longhouse Media, a non-profit organization that teaches filmmaking skills to Native American youth. It holds to the belief that media can be used for both cultural expression and social change.

Alexie is married to Diane Tomhave, who is of Hidatsa, Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi heritage. They live in Seattle with their two sons. (Adapted from Wikipoedia. Retrieved 1/31/2016.)

Book Reviews
What would we do without Sherman Alexie? Having a long, abiding fascination with Native America, I’ve always reached for his books. More than any other writer, he has given me an understanding of contemporary Amerindian life…. Now we have his latest book, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: a Memoir. I have to say: reading it was painful. There is much suffering — mental illness, sexual abuse, violent deaths, bullying, and alcoholism — within Sherman’s family and on the Spokane Indian Reservation where he grew up. Largely this book tackles his rather maddening relationship with his mother and was written after she passed away in 2015. READ MORE ……
Keddy Ann Outlaw - LitLovers

The overwhelming takeaway from Mr. Alexie's memoir is triumph, that of one writer's ability to overcome hardscrabble roots, medical bad luck and generations of systemic racism — all through an uncommon command of language and metaphor.
James Yeh - New York Times Book Review

These pages are scored by resentment, hurt, guilt, anger, fear, but they are also full of gratitude, admiration, and tenderness.
Priscilla Gillman - Boston Globe

[A] marvel of emotional transparency, a story told with the fewest possible filters by a writer grieving the loss of a complicated mother.… [His lines of poetry] successfully convey the inevitable contradictions that beguile and beleaguer anyone who has ever tried to write honestly about someone they hoped to love, someone they hoped would love them.
Beth Kephart - Chicago Tribune

If candor is Alexie's superpower, accuracy might be his nemesis.… Throughout, Alexie is courageous and unflinching, delivering a worthy and honest eulogy by showing us his mother and himself in full, everything spectacular and everything scarred.
Michael Kleber-Diggs - Minneapolis Star Tribune

He's compulsively readable, a literary writer with the guts of a stand-up comedian.
Jim Higgins - Milwaukee Sentinel Journal

Everything you love about Alexie's writing is here: he still manages to find honest human comedy in the darkness of America's genocidal past and our deeply racist present.… His personality is large and, as he survives each passing trial, it's only getting larger; from his adoring audience's vantage point, Alexie is now a giant.
Paul Constant - Seattle Review of Books

The text is rambling, digressive, and sometimes baggy, with dozens of his poems sprinkled in; it wanders among lucid, conversational prose, bawdy comic turns, and lyrical, incantatory verse. This is a fine homage to the vexed process of growing up,
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) [M]emories of a difficult childhood.… Highly recommended for all readers. Alexie's portrayals of family relationships, identity, and grief have the universality of great literature. —Nicholas Graham, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Alexie is a consummate, unnerving and funny storyteller…pouring himself into every molten word. Courageous, anguished, grateful, and hilarious, this is an enlightening and resounding eulogy and self-portrait.… [A]ll will be reaching for this confiding and concussive memoir.

Written in his familiar breezy, conversational, and aphoristic style, the book makes even the darkest personal experiences uplifting and bearable with the author's wit, sarcasm, and humor.… [A] powerful, brutally honest memoir about a mother and the son who loved her.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for You Don't Have to Say You Love Me … then take off on your own:

1. In writing this memoir, Sherman Alexie told his sister that there would be a lot of blank spaces. "But I like the blank spaces." What do you think he means — why does he like blank spaces? What might they signify for him?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: Alexie also says, "This book is a series of circles, sacred and profane." Again, what do you think he means? What are the circles — and which are sacred and which profane?

3, Alexie takes an entire book, some 400 pages, to talk about his mother. So … in less than 400 pages … how would you describe Lillian? Talk about those traits that are both admirable and not so admirable, or just plain awful. Does she generate sympathy? Did your feelings toward her change during the course of reading the memoir?

4. Follow-up to Questions 3: How did the process of writing this memoir — and grappling with some memories he says are so painful he almost did not include them — affect Alexie's understanding of his mother? Does he find peace by the end? If so, in what way?

5. At times Alexie moves the book's focus away from Lillian and back to his own childhood: his medical emergencies, high school years, mental health problems. Talk about those years. What did you find particularly moving or remarkable about his background?

6. Reviewers make much of the humor in You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. Did it make you laugh as you read it? What in particularly did you find funny.

7. What is the significance of the book's cover photo?

8. The book includes 160 poems. Do you have a favorite? Do you find that the poems illuminate the narrative? If so in what way? Or do you find the poetry distracting? Consider the times that the author broke out of a poem into prose, then back into poetry again. Is there anything in particular that seems to prompt the changes from one mode to the other?

9. What have you learned about life on an Indian Reservation? What insights have you gleaned from this memoir into Native American culture? Did anything especially surprise you, impress you, delight you, anger you, or sadden you?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
David Grann, 2017
Knopf Doubleday
352 pp.

From best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed — virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations.

But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals.

But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio 
Birth—March 10, 1967
Where—New York, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Connecticut College; M.A., Tufts University; M.A., Boston University
Currently—lives in New York, New York

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Grann's first book, The Lost City of Z, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, England's most prestigious nonfiction award, The Lost City of Z was chosen as one of the best books of 2009 by countless newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Bloomberg, Publisher's Weekly, and Christian Science Monitor. The book was adapted to film in 2016.

Killers of the Flower Moon, about the murder of the Osage Indians during the 1920s and the birth of the modern F.B.I. under J. Edgar Hoover.

At The New Yorker, Grann has written about everything from the mysterious death of the world's greatest Sherlock Holmes expert to the hunt for the giant squid, from the perilous maze of water tunnels under New York to a Polish writer who may have left clues to a real murder in his postmodern novel. Grann is also author of a 2010 collection of stories, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession.

Grann’s stories have also appeared in The Best American Crime Writing (2004, 2005, and 2009), The Best American Sports Writing (2003 and 2006) and The Best American Nonrequired Reading (2009). As a finalist for the Michael Kelly award for the “fearless pursuit and expression of truth,” Grann has also written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, and New Republic.

Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and, from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism. He currently lives in New York with his wife and two children. (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
[Killers of the Flower Moon]…is close to impeccable. It's confident, fluid in its dynamics, light on its feet…the crime story it tells is appalling, and stocked with authentic heroes and villains. It will make you cringe at man's inhumanity to man. About America's native people, Saul Bellow wrote in a 1957 essay, "They have left their bones, their flints and pots, their place names and tribal names and little besides except a stain, seldom vivid, on the consciousness of their white successors." The best thing about Grann's book is that it stares, hard, at that stain, and makes it vivid indeed.
Dwight Garner - New York Times

A master of the detective form…Killers is something rather deep and not easily forgotten.
Wall St. Journal

A shocking whodunit…What more could fans of true-crime thrillers ask?
USA Today

A marvel of detective-like research and narrative verve.
Financial Times


Best book of the year, so far.
Entertainment Weekly

(Starred review.) Grann burnishes his reputation as a brilliant storyteller in this gripping true-crime narrative.… [He] demonstrates how the Osage Murders inquiry helped Hoover to make the case for a “national, more professional, scientifically skilled” police force.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) A spellbinding book about the largest serial murder investigation you've never heard of, which will be enjoyed by fans of the Old West as well as true crime aficionados. —Deirdre Bray Root, MidPointe Lib. Syst., OH
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Grann employs you-are-there narrative effects to set readers right in the action, and he relays the humanity, evil, and heroism of the people involved. His riveting reckoning of a devastating episode in American history deservedly captivates. —Annie Bostrom

(Starred review.) This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs. Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion … then take off on your own:

1. Trace the "path" by which the Osage Indians eventually landed on the swatch of land in what would become the state of Oklahoma. Talk about their treatment at the hands of the U.S. government and others over the years. What angered or shocked you most?

2. Describe the early days of the Bureau of Investigation, its founding under Theodore Roosevelt, its original purpose, structure and operation, as well as its corruption, ineptness and bungled investigation of the Osage murders.

3. What made young J. Edgar Hoover an unlikely choice to head the Bureau of Investigation? What was his vision for the bureau—why, for instance, a nationalized police force rather than the existing patchwork structure?

4.  How would you describe Tom White? Talk about how he approached the investigation into the Osage murders? When he solved the crime, were you surprised by the identity of the mastermind? Or had you figured it out along the way.

5. Grann writes that "history is a merciless judge." What does he mean by that?

6. Talk about the last 70 pages of the book, in which Grann writes about working with current tribal members to uncover an even deeper conspiracy. By the book's end, what were your feelings about the Osage nation, its history, and its people?

7. What is the significance of the book's title?

8. Does this story have relevance to current events? Are there parallels regarding the Standing Rock Lakota nation and the Keystone pipeline?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2018