Flight

ISBN: 0802170374
ISBN 13: 9780802170378
By: Sherman Alexie

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Currently Reading Fantasy Favorites Fiction Historical Fiction Native American Time Travel To Read Ya Young Adult

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

Christian Clarke

Reading this book taught me that I'm like a drug dealer. First some background. (You can skip this part if you want. Or come back to it later.) Ok, so here's the deal with this book: it's really good and really bad at the same time. It's a like a self-consciously crafted middle school version of Slaughterhouse Five, with time-traveling as a vehicle for learning the meaning of empathy and morality. (there's even a "Pot-to-tweet" inscription) Although it's middle-school level in difficulty, at my school it's usually taught as a 9th grade text. That said, I used it in my 11th grade lit. class because a) most of my students read below grade-level and b) the plot provides easy access to Big Issues like racism, historical oppression, and terrorism. Sherman Alexie does some cool stuff with perspective too, as it is told from the point of view of Zits, a hardscrabble half-Indian half-Irish American teenager who's been in and out of foster homes for most of his life. After committing an atrocity in the lobby of a bank he is inexplicably thrust into a time traveling adventure. In fact, storytelling and reading becomes a metaphor for empathy. As Zits jumps through time and space he inhabits the consciousness of other people. Each of these body-possessing experiences are relevant to Zits' life experience in some way. Each are essential to a deeper journey of self-discovery because he learns to see the world from wildly differently perspectives and communicates his experience directly to the reader. We begin to see how reading itself is a stand-in for time travel. Again, the morality is pretty obvious, but I like that it's obvious because it opened the door to some juicy discussions about morality and ethics, which is rare. So now, here's the part where I discover my identity as Pusher-as-Teacher (or is it Teacher-as-Pusher?). After reading the novel I thought a lot about what the role teachers play as text-selectors. What criteria should we follow for selecting class texts? I only ask because I've grown self-conscious about what I choose for class reading. I've shied away from the CANON in favor of "high-interest" selections, i.e. Young Adult i.e. Simple to Read i.e. Low Expectations i.e. Covert Liberal Bigotry. Really, what's happened is that my view of what I represent as an ENGLISH TEACHER is shifting. I used to feel like an unofficial salesman for the CLASSICS. Like a snake oil con man I would convince kids that this incredibly boring piece of 19th century literature was "good for them," or "exciting." This approach was in turn rooted in a conservative, E.D. Hirsch pedantic philosophy. Which is turn is rooted in a strangely marxist notion: if you want to join the upper class, you should KNOW what the upper class knows. Cultural Literacy=Power. But I'm a terrible salesman, which is ironic given that my father, mother, and sister have all been successful salespeople, albeit for Cadillacs and health insurance. So, now I see myself less as Salesman and more as a Pusher. I'm like the guy at the party who slips something into the palm of your hand and says, "Try this. You'll like it. Trust me." But instead of drugs, I'm pushing books, literature, the art and act of reading itself. And everyone knows you don't start with Heroine (i.e. "Serious literature" i.e. Hemingway and Sartre), you start with gateway drugs like marijuana (i.e. Young Adult i.e. Flight.) So yeah, that's what reading Flight has taught me. I'm a Pusher. Yours,Dr. Feelgood

Braeden Udy

There's that old aphorism, "you don't know a man until you walk a few miles in his moccasins." Sherman Alexie takes this proverb, and spins an original, darkly-funny, and empathetic story of an angry Indian boy oscillating between foster homes who travels through time assuming roles of people in the past on both sides of the Indian conflict. At first, I was taken back by the explicit content - language, sex, violence - but I think I was initially shocked because I was reading it as a YA novel. At the beginning it reads like the Indian version of Holden Caulfield, but I quickly realized Zits is carrying years of abuse, abandonment, sadness, and loneliness on his shoulders - Caulfield was just a pissed privileged prick in comparison. This book is powerful, but the black comedy tempers the sentiment nicely. I really appreciated Alexie's bold statement that revenge is futile and perpetuates generations of badness, that every issue is grey, and that we can forgive those who have harmed us or those we love and move on. What a beautiful and important text in the modern Native American lit cannon.

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.

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.

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.

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?

Gloria

If you haven't discovered Sherman Alexi yet, I suggest starting now. I would start with the "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time indian." And then I would pick up this book and lose yourself in it for about a 24 hour period. It is a short read, but filled with life lessons of understanding your past so that you can better understand yourself in the present. Zits is a 15 year old foster kid who has moved from home to home, staying somewhere sometimes for less than a few hours. He is part American Indian and part Irish, though his Indian father left before he was born so he is not identified as Indian on his birth certificate. His Irish mother dies when he is six from breast cancer. Zits is in and out of jail as much as he is in and out of new foster homes. This book takes place at a cross roads for zits. He can either continue on his destructive path or take a different one. He comes to choose his path by traveling in time to inhabit different people at different times of the century. He experiences war, crime, and hatred in many forms, and through these pasts comes to a deeper understanding of what he is willing to let go of to hang on to what he really needs in his life. I gave the book four stars because it wraps up just a little too nicely at the end, but otherwise I recommend it!

Lizgreen79

this novel is appropriately named in the way it is experienced; it is a super quick read. the angst filled, distinctive adolescent narrator, "Zits. Call me Zits" (as the novel begins) has a remarkable voice, and Alexie weaves an engaging story...he even does some pretty interesting things with layers of voices as Zits possesses different bodies in his time travels...where Zits ends and the other characters begin gets pretty juicy. There was something about it though, that just felt vaguely contrived...or maybe some of the themes felt tired. I am a fan of Alexie's short stories, but this is the first novel I've read of his. I think there are better ones. He's funny and fierce and believable even when he's being fantastical, and I totally teared up at the ending, but...some of the lines were just clunky and ham handed. I don't know if this was YA intended audience, but it almost felt like he wasn't giving his readers enough credit and connecting all the dots for us. and there weren't even that many dots. which is surprising because "the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian" is his first YA book and it won like fifteen awards. i was drawn to this one because it's YA and has time travel, which are two elements in my novel. it actually dealt with trauma, too, so it resonated with me and the themes of my novel and i appreciated it. it totally drew me in, it just felt a little too obvious in places, which is not how i experienced Alexie's short fiction for adult readers. gonna try the "absolutely true diary" before i see him at the SCBWI conference. if anyone has any other alexie recommendations, lemme know...

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.

Zac

I'll read most anything Alexie writes. I didn't even read the cover flaps or the back when I decided to buy Flight at the neighborhood second-hand bookstore. That was the right choice.Not only does Alexie play with format and chronology here, he approaches emotions in a way that was refreshing as well. I felt attached to the character from the opening pages, but didn't realize how close I was growing until I sat in a local coffee shop with tears in my eyes as I read the final pages. It's been a while since a book grabbed me emotionally. Flight managed to do that subtly and superbly.

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).

T.R.

Zits, the narrator, is a great vehicle for Alexie's humor and style. However on several levels the book either falls short of its ambition or uncomfortably strengthens stereotypes and cliched answers to teenage alienation and transformation.Zits is certainly a likable self deprecating and insightful teenager. His struggles with self image, abuse, identity, family, criminalization, and the foster care system would be great opportunities for my students to reflect and examine their own lives. And to Alexie's credit he mines these areas to try to understand a bit of what is happening in America when a teenager decides to walk into a public space and shoot as many people as possible. Unfortunately the answers seem pat and easy. Geez, kids need loving homes and affirmation.What is most disconcerting however is the portrayal of characters that easily fit into established archetypes. We have the Indian father who abandons his child, retreats into alcohol because of his own abusive father. The white liberal public servants will eventually create the safety for Zits to claim his own identity. I'm confused why Alexie would structure it this way. Just as his answers to teenage alienation seem pre-packaged in our culture, so do his racial portrayals. And these portrayals reinforce the racism that Zits struggles against... and incredulously it is in this context that Zits finds the secure footing he needs to heal himself.I'm not ready to completely discount the book, or its potential to be carefully used with teenagers. However, in Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, a character says, "I haven't laughed like that in 500 years." Nothing in Flight helps us laugh since Columbus' arrival.

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.

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.

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.

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