Author Sherman Alexie Cancels Book Tour To Battle Depression

By Victoria Kim 07/19/17

The award-winning author explained his decision in a heartfelt Facebook post to his fans.

Sherman Alexie
Photo via WikiCommons/ ASU Department of English

Novelist Sherman Alexie has pulled the plug on the remainder of his book tour until further notice. 

The decorated author, known for the collection of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven—later adapted as the 1998 film Smoke Signals—wrote a heartfelt Facebook post explaining his decision to take a break from promoting his new memoir.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me chronicles Alexie’s relationship with his late mother Lillian Alexie. The author, who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, said his mother has been haunting him as he's traveled from city to city.

“My mother, from the afterlife, is metaphorically kicking my ass,” he wrote. Alexie describes moments throughout his book tour when he felt his mother’s presence or was reminded of her. 

“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time…I don’t believe in magic, but I believe in interpreting coincidence exactly the way you want to.”

Revisiting his mother’s memory again and again took a toll on Alexie. “I have been sobbing many times a day during this book tour. I have sobbed in private and I have sobbed onstage. I have been rebreaking my heart night after night. I have, to use recovery vocabulary, been retraumatizing myself,” he wrote. “I fell ill with depression…I couldn’t medicate my sadness—my complicated grief.”

All this culminated in a dream he had, which he believes was a manifestation of his mother giving him a clear sign to stop the book tour. “I ran through fire and the memory of fire. I ran until my feet bled. I ran until dawn. I ran until I collapsed exhausted to the road.” That’s when he saw his mother dressed as a highway construction worker, holding a sign that said STOP. 

“I think the meaning of that dream is obvious,” he wrote. “It means I am supposed to stop this book tour.”

Alexie will be in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Menlo Park before bringing his tour to a close—so that he may “do most of my grieving in private.”

Alexie describes his mother as “brilliant, funny, beautiful, generous, vindictive, deceitful, tender, manipulative, abusive, loving, and intimidating.”

The author himself is a recovering alcoholic after transitioning from “a crate of beer a day” to sobriety at age 23 as his writing career was taking off.

Growing up on the reservation, drinking was a big part of his family. He recalled that his father would disappear on drinking binges. “You always knew they were coming: he was never violent, but short-tempered,” said Alexie, according to the Guardian. “It wasn’t a violent house, but a violent reservation.”

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