A gifted and accomplished storyteller returns with a powerful and timely novel of a troubled foster teenager. Simultaneously wrenching and deeply ...Show synopsisA gifted and accomplished storyteller returns with a powerful and timely novel of a troubled foster teenager. Simultaneously wrenching and deeply humorous, wholly contemporary yet steeped in American history, "Flight" is irrepressible, fearless, and groundbreaking.Hide synopsis
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With Sherman Alexie's novel "Flight," he may have catapulted himself to the top tier of my favorite authors list. Cribbing unapologetically from Kurt Vonnegut, (the book opens with "Po-tee-weet") Alexie tells us the story of a half-Indian, half-white foster kid named Zits, so named for obvious reasons, who feels unloved, unwanted, and untethered from society. From this stems his decision to commit a terrible act of violence, which unexpectedly triggers a sudden journey out of the present and out of his own body, into vastly different periods of American history and the bodies of similarly different people.
In becoming other people, Zits begins to know himself. It is a very simple premise for all it's fantastical trappings, but the story is told with such humor and anger and love that I was completely swept up in Zits' personal odyssey.
A great story, a great read, and a great author.
By Sherman Alexie Black Cat,
Paperback original 200 pages
Publication date: April 2007
Reading Group Guide Included
Dr. Seuss, Native American Style
A few years ago, I met Sherman Alexie in Toronto at the press suite where the young Spokane/Coeur d?Alene author from Seattle was receiving reporters. I had prepared questions, but asked none of them. We talked instead about life: his and mine. Alexie was relaxed, warm and unhurried, every bit as charismatic as the photos in Esquire and on book jackets. I asked about his pregnant young wife. That was when his eyes darkened and his tone changed. He said he was concerned about bringing a baby into such a cruel, evil, dangerous world. Those were not his words exactly, but that is what he more or less meant. I don?t have my notes from that meeting.
His demeanor suggested Native Americans were doomed to a life of struggle and targets for racism. He was getting angrier as he spoke. I wanted to hug him. We chatted a bit longer and then with a well-meant thank you, I hurried out into the drizzly, Lake Ontario morning. What I recall most was a young man, not much older than my own son, who was scared. Recently, I read Flight, Alexie?s latest book. The first word that came to mind as I read was forgiveness. I recalled that another writer had used the word in a review about This Business of Fancy Dancing, Alexie?s first book.
I did not find forgiveness in Alexie?s earlier works. I did find a young man trying to come to grips with his place in America ? anger and pain were the dominant emotions. There was warmth and laughter. Native people are family people and family includes all our friends. Warmth and camaraderie keep us going. All these feelings were still there in Flight, but this story is about metamorphosis. I think Alexie, who is now the father of two, has been working on how to present the world to his children. And, following in the steps of other seekers of truth who go to the mountain, Alexie went to his personal mountain and came back with this book.
The main character in Flight is an alienated teenage boy whose nickname is Zits. He is an orphan, half Native-half white, plagued by that teenage nightmare, acne, and suffering abuse and pain at every turn in a foster care system filled with predators and vultures. The boy is feisty, smart and streetwise.
By a twist of fate, he finds himself trans- ported back in time to the Civil Rights era on a reservation in Idaho, where he is an FBI agent. He and his partner meet two Native warriors who are informants for the govern- ment. Zits witnesses betrayal, cruelty and deceit. He also witnesses love and kindness. Are some killings right and others wrong, he asks himself? What defines good and evil and when are they different?
?We are all the same people,? Alexie writes. ?And we are all falling,?
This time-travel phenomenon goes on as Zits finds himself in the body of a mute Indian child in a camp rejoicing after the Battle of Little Bighorn. Then, after that battle, he becomes a crusty, old Indian tracker for the U. S. Army. Another time he inhabits the body of an air- line pilot who commits sui- cide after betraying his wife, his mistress, and his country.
Then as the pièce de résistance, Zits finds himself in the body of drunken, sick, broken Indian rummaging through Dumpsters in a Seattle alley. He discovers he is in the body of his long-lost father.
The word betrayal comes up again and again; and so many questions. When are cruelty, deceit, war, lies and revenge acceptable? These puzzles confront the astounded time traveler over and over. ?Is revenge a circle inside of a circle inside of a circle?? he asks.
When the time travel journey dumps Zits back in the lobby of the Seattle bank where he start- ed out, with two loaded guns, ready to shoot up the place, he realizes that he can still choose. It really is about choice and self-efficacy. I think Alexie has decided that darkness, racism, violence and stupidity will always be out there; but love, knowledge and family will always hold back the night, and even the most hideous toads become princes in a loving embrace.
This book is an important marker on the writer?s personal journey as a man and I believe that it is a gift to his own, and to all, children. The lessons are universal and told through the eyes of a rambunctious, vulnerable and very believable teenage boy, who swears a lot.
Call me Storylover.
Sherman Alexie is gifted. Flight is not only his best book, it's the best I've read in years.
Better than fry bread with beans. Even better than Hualapai stew.
Zits is a plausible kid--not always easy to like, fearsome even, but loveable. From the Little Bighorn to the terrorist airplane crash, the twists of time and place and person are amazing yet somehow credible. Alexie provides the essence of experience with no wasted words.
Not only do I recommend this book, I'm buying it for my friends.
181 pages of spellbinding text followed by 13 pages of discussion questions--exactly the kind that make students hate reading and hate books. Zits would puke.
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