Flight

ISBN: 0802170374
ISBN 13: 9780802170378
By: Sherman Alexie

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About this book

Sherman Alexie is one of our most gifted and accomplished storytellers and a treasured writer of huge national stature. His first novel in ten years is the hilarious and tragic portrait of an orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a charged search for his true identity. With powerful and swift, prose, Flight follows this troubled foster teenager--a boy who is not a "legal" Indian because he was never claimed by his father--as he learns that violence is not the answer.The journey for Flight's young hero begins as he's about to commit a massive act o violence. At the moment of decision, he finds himself shot back through time to resurface in the body of an FBI agent during the civil rights era, where he sees why "Hell is Re driver, Idaho, in the 1970s." Red River is only the first stop in an eye-opening trip through moments in American history. He will continue traveling back to inhabit the body of an Indian child during the battle at Little Bighorn and then ride with an Indian tracker in the nineteenth century before materializing as an airline pilot jetting through the skies today. During these furious travels through time, his refrain grows: "Who's to judge?" and "I don't understand humans." When finally, blessedly, our young warrior comes to rest again in his own life, he is mightily transformed by all he has seen.This is Sherman Alexie at his most brilliant--making us laugh while he's breaking our hearts. Time Out,/i> has said that "Alexie, like his characters, is on a modern-day vision quest," and in Flight he seeks nothing less than an understanding of why human beings hate. Flight is irrepressible, fearless, and groundbreaking Alexie.

Reader's Thoughts

Daniel

I am sad that "Flight" was my introduction to Sherman Alexie, because I did not care for it, and, given the widespread praise that he has received, I suspect that it does not represent his best work. Many things about this book did not work for me. The time-travel device is forced upon the story to serve Alexie's agenda, which in turn breezed through a few historical anecdotes that were themselves shallow. The revelations that Alexie produces in these episodes, though weighty, are not surprising. Likewise, his protagonist (I believe his nickname is "Zits") never gains the substance that good characters achieve.While I do not remember any clear details about this book, I cannot forget thinking that Alexie relied on stereotypes to describe his characters and deus ex machina to move them from point A to point Z. This surprised me, too, as Alexie delves into some heavy themes, including the oppression of this country's native peoples; acts of terrorism in our contemporary world; and what family means in a fractured society that strips people of their heritage and ancestry. Any one of these themes can lay the foundation for a great novel, yet, for whatever reason, Alexie combines them all with conventional material that gives no indication that it came from the pen of a mature, established writer.My ultimate reaction upon finishing this book was, "Where the hell did this come from, and why?" And though I am not giving up on Alexie and his work, I cannot recommend this title.

Stephanie

(My Rating: 8/10 Stars) Half-native American, half Irish-American, "Zits" is a 15-year-old orphan who's spent most of his life in foster care. His life has been shaped by poverty, abuse, and alcoholism. At the moment he commits a horrible, life-altering crime, he finds himself traveling through time, experiencing life through others' eyes. He learns a great deal about native American history, including wars between white men and Indians and atrocities committed on both sides. In the process, he gains perspective on our shared humanity, the value of human life, and the cyclical nature of violence. This is an engrossing novel with a unique, believable narrator beginning to understand who he is and where he comes from and starting to grasp the complexity of human nature. I loved the mixture of rage and violence and innocence and compassion in this character. I also appreciated the message that "hopelessly" broken people are sometimes redeemable.

Cooper

Every student of American literature SHOULD read this novel because of the rampant symbolism and metaphors, which in themselves, allow students to easily detect and interpret such symbols in the book such as the meaning behind the planes, or subtle things the author implants. In addition, I thought the quest to find an identity resonates with everyone at some point in their lives, as they struggle to determine their place in the world and whether they are meaningful. The moral dilemma Zits faces of whether killing is ever justifiable explores the ideas of moral absolutism versus moral relativism and ultimately he decides, somewhat hesitantly, that maybe it is as simple as that killing is wrong, no matter what. Also, the book underlines human nature of violence and cruelty, but also demonstrates our ability to have a choice in every matter. We never HAVE to do anything, and Zits is lucky enough to have a sort of ethereal conversion experience just before he commits mass murder, sort of a second chance in a way.

Andy Mac

The book Flight by Sherman Alexie was a simple read with a complicated plot. I enjoyed reading a few chapters every night because I was able to analyze the readings and take things one 'flashback' at a time. The book is based on a character name Zits, who is in hi mid-teens and is of native American decent. His father left him when he was younger, and his mother died to breast cancer when he was six years old. He was sent to many different foster homes where he was taken advantage of and never really loved. He was filed with hated and anger, and this directed him towards drinking and fire-starting, etc. He found a kid in jail that he looked up to as a brother figure because he had wisdom. The boy, named Justice, convinced Zits to take two guns into a bank and shoot the people in the bank. He was then thrown into peoples bodies form all different eras during major historical events. He came back as a brand new kid with a new appreciation for life, especially when he found love with his new family. Zit real name is Michael.

liz

Okay, so this was my first time ever reading Alexie. I had been kind of hesitant, since he's The Indian Author, and it makes me feel bad for all the other Indian authors floating around out there (I imagine the publishers: "Well, we got The Indian Author, we don't need to worry about finding any other ones!"). So, I was pleasantly surprised that his writing is so good.The way the story is set up reminds me of The Law of Love, in that there's a ton of switching back and forth between other lives and times and bodies. In this case, an Indian teenager who's been screwed over by the system zips around between crucial moments in Indian history and key moments in some other peoples' lives. It's intense, and well-done, and the ending is a little too happy-tidy for me, but in a novella like this, anything too dark would have just been too much.I practice killing people until it feels like I'm really killing them. I wonder how long it would take me to really shoot somebody. I wonder what would happen if I killed ten, twenty, or thirty people. If I killed enough people for real, would it begin to feel like practice?

Dorothea

Flight's language is simple and the story is compelling. Alexie addresses some of my favorite themes: identity, shame, betrayal, justice, revenge and redemption. This book would be an excellent read for high schoolers and I hope teachers will begin using it, SOON! (Although, the occasional f-word will cause a stink among the narrow-minded set.)Part of me wants to say that Flight isn't Alexie's best work in a literary sense. His 1993 book, Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, remains in my mind, better. But Flight was useful and freeing for me in a couple of different ways that Alexie's other works have not been---1. Flight made me realize that writing doesn't have to be so damn complex in order to be good.2. As a person who loves to cart around a boat-load of white, middle-class, American guilt, this novel was liberating.

Autumn Brady

I do not think this is a book of hate (towards any race) but a book about self acceptance. Alexie has a sardonic sense of humour, a biting tongue, but also combines this with compassion in his stories. This story is really no different than his other works, even if in this particular novel he is heavy handed with some stereotypes. Stereotypes are real folks, not in the idea that all people fit their stereotypes but that they exist. I think that is what I felt him demonstrating here--people feel stereotypes especially the ones directed at them. Alexie writes in a way that you can share his characters' pain. I feel what they feel. I can relate to them. I am them for a time. It is why as soon as I pick up one of his books, I can't put them down.Fifteen year old Zits is in foster care, going from home to home. The police know him well, sadly because people in authority treat the kid like crap with the exception of one police officer. His pain stemmed from his mother's death and the father that abandoned him. So many heart wrenching memories have left this young man with a huge chip on his shoulder and rightfully so. However, it imprisoned him to a life of loneliness and misery. His inability to accept himself causes him to reach out for the acceptance of others and simultaneously prove himself unworthy of people's friendship. It causes him to feel lot of anger, resentments, and internalize that he deserved a life of pain.Then one day he is given a chance to live the lives of others throughout history. To feel what they feel and be what they are. This understanding leads to understanding of all those that have passed through his life, the good people, the bad ones, the entirety of his own being. I loved it because it showed that the way others treat us is not the reflection of ourselves but the reflections of those individuals.Alexie is bold which makes the realness/authenticity feeling of this novel exceptional. So is his message. I wonder how he can write something so meaningful yet write it so simply? As an author he is both a truth teller and story teller, a powerful combination that has the profoundness to change the world one paperback at a time (in my humble opinion).

deena kirk

Quite a rough first half. It took me a bit to warm up to the fantasy element of the read, however, the "ghosts" of past and present come together for the boy's future. I find myself on a conflicted plane with Alexie's story in this book. I do not love the harshness with with it is told. Yet, it would ring false for the main character if he had a softer viewpoint. I lived in South Dakota during my elementary school years. My father was an FBI Agent. He was transferred to Rapid City after the killing of two Federal Agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation during an uprising. We toured Pine Ridge as a family a couple of years later. I was about 8 or 9 years old. My father kept his gun under the front seat in the car. We were not allowed to get out, but I saw the field where the agents were surrounded and executed. We also drove through the town, Pine Ridge, and I saw firsthand the skeletal nature of reservation living. The landscape-less surroundings of the crappy little trailers. They were uncared for, thrown out like their inhabitants. This is an extremely stung memory for me. He said almost nothing about his work on the reservation. I wonder what sort of sadness he had to carry around after viewing, firsthand, the sandiness of the place. As a grown woman, I see that my understanding of the "indian's" plight was meager. Sherman Alexie tells the truth in his books. It is uncomfortable. It is harsh. It is unsightly. I believe in upcoming years, his works will point up an open sore, that quietly persists in our country's self-image. One that will not heal itself. One that will hurt immensely to open up and scrape out, but must be addressed.

Emily

I wept the whole way through it. This book is marvelous. It bleeds empathy and compassion and is one of the most sincere, gut-real, open-eyed, forgiving, hopeful novels I've read this year so far. I love this book. The wit and charm of the teenage boy narrator kept me giggling and grinning, and the tone switches were so subtle and genuine and seamless that I would cry and laugh at the same times. Sometimes I would just cry. I am achingly pleased with Alexie and can't wait to pick up another of his works.Don't read this book if the language is going to distract you. You're literally reading the thoughts of an at-risk teenage boy. But the journey of the book is so important--I want a fistful of boys I've known in the past three years to read it immediately. There is a pain and an honesty and love for goodness that hurts me just thinking back on the novel. I want to read it every year so I remember what it taught me.I love that it's a hopeful book. I love that it is quirky and bizarre and so brilliantly conceived. The illustrations of society and history are bitter and raw and, yes, I want to say important again. I feel like everyone should read this and let themselves be changed a little bit today. I will encourage my own teenage children to read it when I have them, I don't care what kind of language it has. There is no sex, but lots of allusions to sexual molestations. Another warning. But seriously, if these things aren't going to bother you, it is well worth listening to this narrator kid for the day it takes you to read it. The human empathy you achieve is worth it. Five stars. And a grin.

Julia

Reread for a Library bookclub on race and racial issues. At my suggestion.Zits is a fifteen year-old foster kid, who has lived in twenty homes, who is half Indian and half white, whose rage, lack of identity, loneliness and guilt defines him. He goes into a bank prepared to shoot the customers. Why a bank? Because poverty also defines Zits. And he winds up time traveling and body traveling through five other people. First, is a white FBI agent who kills an Indian in 1975. Second is a mute 12 year old boy in the stinky camp where Custer had his Last Stand. Gus is an old and arthritic Indian tracker who helps a young soldier and a little boy escape the slaughter. Jimmy the pilot whose guilt and betrayal consumes him for teaching and befriending Abbad, who flies a plane into a Chicago highrise. Then he becomes a drunk, homeless, nameless, Tacoma man who turns out to be Zits’ dad. Whose own father terrorized him, and who he wanted dead as an 8 year old.The book begins with “Call me Zits. Everybody calls me Zits. That’s not my real name, of course. My real name isn’t important.” (p.1) “I have returned to my body. And my ugly face. And my anger. And my loneliness.” (p.158)In the reading guide it is asked if this is a cri-de-coeur, a phrase or genre I’d never heard of, which translates to ‘cry of the heart’ in French and means an ‘impassioned outcry, appeal, protest or entreaty.’ Yes, this novel is surely that. Review from 12/18/2007:I loved loved loved this book and am rethinking teaching Slaughterhouse V instead of this similar in story, but infinitely shorter novel. (Shorter is almost always better for my students.) Except that this one’s protagonist is a very contemporary Indian foster boy named Zits. He travels back and forth in time, to FBI agents who are killing Indians in the 1970’s, to an Indian scout, to a mute Indian boy who is with Crazy Horse, to his own father. Zits will be more immediate to my students, and is a great introduction to Alexie, to Vonnegut and Holden Caulfield, who Zits is also very like.

Jennifer

Flight is an apt name for this book since the theme appears throughout. In fact, I think of the book as a flight of fancy because the main character body hops from one time-period and social-economic status to the next. He is an angry, orphaned half-Indian who finds himself the body of an FBI agent on a reservation in the 70's, then a Native American boy during Custer's Last Stand, an Irish soldier during the same time period, a flight instructor during current times and finally his own absent father. This conceit was a bit awkward though the main character's voice is strong and convincing throughout. I think this book was a way to address senseless violence of the lone shooter kind and also acts of terrorism such as 9/11 but I didn't feel any great truths were revealed. It is supposed to be poignant and funny at the same time but the humor, to me, was not that funny. This was the first time I had read Sherman Alexie after seeing his name in many places over the years and I can't say that I was hugely impressed. However, I read another GoodReads review that suggested this may not be his best work. It is not, by any, means a terrible book but not particularly impressive. However, It's not long and interesting because it comes from a unique perspective. I will check out more of his books if I get the chance.

Clint Jones

I love this book!!! However, I must say, with a bit of sadness, that this is not Alexie's best book. Alexie is at his best when his prose is poetic, thought provoking,and humorous all at once. And, while this book certainly has its moments, it fails to substain the sentence-after-sentence, page-after-page trance that Alexie's writing is capable of producing. What I love about this book is how it has gotten my high school students, who would normally not even consider reading a book, to consume this one in a matter of days and come back asking for more books like this to read. (Hehe...I offer them Catcer in the Rye.)I give this book to my reluctant readers and tell them "it's about a time-traveling serial killer." When they come back the next day, they can't wait to get together in their Lit-circles and begin discussing the characters, "Justice" and "Truth". And, while there are a few students who get confused by the novel's quantum leaps in time, there are always some who can explain what is happening to "Justice", In addition, the questions raised by the changing setting provide an excellent opportunity to introduce and teach magical-realism to the newly-awakened and curious, young minds. In fact, what makes this novel a high school literature teacher's best friend is that Alexie has created a seemingly simple story that lures readers in and, yet, the novel's structure, plot, humor, sadness, relevance to life and themes are intriguing enough to fascinate the most discerning reader.Kudos to Alexie for creating rare teachable moments in which ALL students are completely engaged and engrossed, and, best of all, they are motivated by a desire to make meaning and understand.

Thea

I really liked this book a lot. It made me cry on the subway. This is the official review I wrote of it:In Flight Sherman Alexie’s message is that everything is perspective, and it’s delivered in an original, moving, hilarious and intensely persuasive way. Flight shocks its readers by presenting extremely sympathetic characters, who then do horrendous things. Zits, a half white, half Native 15 year-old orphan, has been abused and neglected most of his life. Moments after committing a shocking act of violence, he is sucked through time. He stops five times – during Native civil rights struggles in 1970’s America, on the battlefield at Custer’s Last Stand – and each time he witnesses why people make decisions to do both terrible and benevolent things. Like Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Flight uses time travel to disturb how we see political events, showing that past horrors are actually ongoing, and offering the chance to redo and undo – which as nations and people, we really need.

Victor

: FlightAuthor : Sherman AlexieThe Main Characters In My Book Are Zits & his copfriend. Zits life isn't the best he has been through a lothe lost both of his parents at a really young age. Thisbook was really different from all the other books I have read. I had a lot of personal connection with thisbook because of the things that he went throughmade him change a lot to be a nice better person inlife. I really enjoyed this book because of all thedifferent things this book had from funny, sad &happy moments. One of my Favorite quotes I Really Liked was when he said "I Wonder if I deserve to live"his saying this because of all the bad things he hasdone in his life which means he regrets a lot of themlike I do too. I would give this book five 5's because itreally got to me in my personal life which meant a lot Iwas happy to read something I was going through. Some of the people I think would like to read thisbook and ill enjoy it are my teen friends because theymight have a lot in common like I did.

Lindsay

** spoiler alert ** I'm still taking a little time to process this book. It was a super quick read--I read it in a day--but it certainly packs a punch. It's a story about Zits, an orphaned and awkward half-Indian kid covered in serious acne and dealing with some severe loneliness. He's passed from foster home to foster home and has been arrested so many times he knows the officers around Seattle by name. As he goes to commit a mass murder, he is suddenly transported into several points of the past, primarily violent moments in American Indian history, where he experiences the pain and complexity of war (both literal and figurative).I really enjoyed the several embodiments the character takes in the novel, and as with any good writing on war, Alexie effectively creates compassion for both the "good" and "bad" guys while blurring the line between "good" and "bad". He creates vivid settings for every scene no matter how quickly he bounces around time. I particularly enjoyed the exposition on how the Little Bighorn camp smelled...never really thought about the smells before. And as with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I think he has a great talent for using an adolescent voice. I hope he might continue writing like this--this is a unique and underrepresented voice in young adult literature. However, this book might be a little intense for some teens.What I can't quite figure out is whether the story is too simple. Even though I don't think I'm spoiling much (the jacket does read that "he is mightily transformed by all he has seen"), it's not much of a surprise that, when Zits finally returns to the present, he understands the error of his ways. The events he partakes in certainly would melt even the coldest of hearts (some scenes got me a little weepy), and even though I pretty much knew how it was going to ultimately end, the various experiences continued to captivate me throughout. But I still feel like something was missing...perhaps it was because I knew there was going to be a more or less "happy" ending. It felt more like a fable. Maybe this is a good thing? I haven't read a book like that in long time; plus it gives hope that a very lost kid might somehow find a way. Also, since there was so much time-travel packed into so few pages, we jump to the next story when I want to hear more about the previous one. In a way it kind of keeps in line with the fast-paced environment kids grow up with today and definitely falls into the helter-skelter life Zits has had to lead, but as a reader I wanted even more detail. Good thing I have more Alexie books to turn to.

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