Flight

ISBN: 0802170374
ISBN 13: 9780802170378
By: Sherman Alexie

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Genres

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

Charissa

Ate this book up in about three days, cover to cover. Love Sherman Alexie. This one is a very believable journey into the heart of a troubled young Native American man, a teen, who has suffered through loss, mistreatment, foster care, and run ins with the law. Now he finds himself slipping through space-time, experiencing life through different lenses. Will it be enough to save him from his own self-destructive choices? This story is sort of like the shamanic version of Christmas Carol for orphans. Powerful, sad, moving, real. Highly recommend this read.

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.

Kit

Alexie may have some problems with style here and there, but his presentation of material is always honest, emotive, and personal. Flight is a fascinating exercise and partial departure from the work of his that I currently known, to thought-provoking result. The story follows teen-aged orphan and 20-time foster kid "Zits" who, after years of making trouble and being tossed from family to family has landed himself in jail again, where he meets a boy named Justice who shows him compassion. The two end up running away together, getting their hands on some weapons, and entering a bank to take revenge on the patrons there. Things go afoul for Zits and he is shot in the head, which begins a journey into the past, where he inhabits the bodies of various people involved in moments of native history and terrorism, learning through direct experience the pain and consequences of violence, division, and racism. Although parts of the book can get a bit unsubtle, the material is dealt with in a manner that shows little sugarcoating. As a troubled young man, he is touched and shocked by the pain brought about by cycles of revenge and violence; as readers, we are forced to confront our own roles and connections to this violence as well. I for one had a very difficult time hearing about the systematic justification of this violence and cruelty, and Alexie did a fair job of painting for us a picture of a society for whom the end justifies the means, past guilt is both a justification for pity as it is for suspicion and stereotyping, and systematic oppression aids in the creation and perpetuation of lives and attitudes that limit the options and opportunities by those that live under them. I really enjoy the way he explores the rez condition from a variety of angles, with issues of choice always tempered with an understanding of what a person is up against by trying to make that choice, and the struggles they will face trying to break the chain. Highly recommended.

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.

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!

Lindsay

Sherman Alexie's Flight is often beautiful and usually poignant. However, any novel written through the point of view of a 15-year-old boy can run the risk of annoying readers, especially if the character is written well (e.g., Holden Caulfield).Alexie's narrator, a teenage orphan called "Zits," is written rather well. Losing his Indian father to homelessness and his Irish mother to cancer, chronic foster-child Zits is understandably angry. Like many angry teenage boys, "Zits" is vulnerable, blindly attracted to the wrong role models and tempted to violence. At the crucial moment in this temptation, Zits is transported through time to other scenes of violent temptation—an AIM standoff, the Battle of Little Bighorn, a raid on a nineteenth-century Indian camp, to name a few. Through these vivid travels, be they literal or figurative, Zits comes to understand the folly of vengeance.Throughout the early part of the novel (set in contemporary times), Zits name-drops bands and spits up slang like any teenager. While I was annoyed by this side of Zits, I had to admit that his authenticity made him that way.During and after his flight through history, Zits voice becomes balanced by the scenes he witnesses. As he physically and mentally inhabits the bodies of others affected by violence—victims, perpetrators, and bystanders of varying degrees of innocence—Zits forms a sense of empathy comparable to the reader's. We witness the horror of these events along with Zits, bonding to him as he bonds to his bodily hosts.The one complaint I have, is that Zits' language often belabors the point Alexie is making about violence and vengeance. The historic events, as well as Zits' visceral reactions to them, show us enough on their own; we do not need the teenager to state the obvious at the end of every chapter. Then again, maybe he's not doing it for us.

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.

Ruby Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]

I like Alexie's writing, but this just wasn't written for me. It's a YA novel, and weighted heavily on the didactic side. "How To Survive Being A Native American Youth By Encountering Time Travel & Thereby Learning All The Major Lessons in Life" would have been an extremely accurate title.The 40+ study questions in the back make me wonder if perhaps this was written as a facilitator's guide for an "at-risk youth" program. I'm sure I'm being unfair, as I've really enjoyed Alexie's short fiction, but this just wasn't for me. In every sense.

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.

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?

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.

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.

Alyx

I read most of this book on a connecting flight, which speaks to Alexie's remarkable prose. An inattentive skimmer may dismiss his writing as slight and insubstantial, but Alexie is a master at using language to form and further a character, as well as using novels to forward a political agenda without simplifying it. This story is about a young man of Native American descent nicknamed Zits who is disenfranchised by essentially every service offered by this country's government. Able to travel time and occupy various people's bodies following an event I'd rather not spoil, Zits learns a great deal about empathy and the futility of violence as a means of resolving conflict. If I taught middle or high school English or American history, I'd assign this book. Anyone who teaches should.

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.

Liza

I’ve been meaning to read a book by Sherman Alexie for a while now, and after reading Flight, I now want to devour everything that Alexie has ever written or been associated with. Flight is the story of Zits, a teenage Native American orphan who repeatedly finds himself on the wrong side of the law. Upon meeting another lost teenager, Zits thinks he has discovered the outlet for his anger, but suddenly he is traveling through time to important eras of Native American history--both in the popular and his personal imagination--and he is forced to see the world from many different perspectives. You wouldn’t think a book with this topic would be humorous, but at times Flight is darkly hilarious. Alexie has perfectly captured the voice of a confused teen without being condescending or overly dramatic, and he manages to make you feel a part of the histories he relates. I never could envision “Custer’s Last Stand,” but now I can. While a quick read, Flight is not short on substance, so absolutely everyone should read this book.

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