November/December Pick 2009

Flight
Cover of Flight Flight
Sherman Alexie

Flight is the hilarious and tragic portrait of an orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a violent search for his true identity.

Sherman Alexie is one of our most gifted and accomplished storytellers and a treasured writer of huge national stature. His first novel since Indian Killer is a powerful, fast, and timely story of a troubled foster teenager—a boy who is not a “legal” Indian because he was never claimed by his father—who learns the true meaning of terror.

The journey for this young hero begins as he’s about to commit a massive act of violence. At the moment of decision, he finds himself shot back through time, resurfacing in the body of a white FBI agent on the Nannapush Indian reservation in mid-1970s Red River, Idaho, who is forced to see just why “Hell is Red River, Idaho, in the 1970s.” Red River is only the first stop in a shocking sojourn through moments of violence in American history. He will continue traveling back, to inhabit the body of an Indian child during the battle at Little Bighorn and then to ride with an Indian tracker in the nineteenth century before materializing as an airline pilot jetting through the skies today. During these frantic trips 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 contemporary body, he is mightily transformed by all he’s seen.

This is Sherman Alexie at his most brilliant—making us laugh while he’s breaking our hearts. Time Out has said that “Alexie, like his characters, is on a modern-day vision quest,” and this has never been clearer than in Flight, where he seeks nothing less than an understanding of why human beings hate. Simultaneously wrenching and deeply humorous, wholly contemporary yet steeped in American history, Flight is irrepressible, fearless, and groundbreaking Alexie.

For On the Same Page, the Library has purchased the 2007 Grove Press trade paperback edition. It is also available at the Library as an unabridged audio book in CD format.


About the Author

Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, was born in 1966 on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He received his B.A. in American studies from Washington State University in Pullman.

His books of poetry include Face, One Stick Song, The Man Who Loves Salmon, The Summer of Black Widows, Water Flowing Home, Old Shirts & New Skins, First Indian on the Moon , I Would Steal Horses, and The Business of Fancydancing.

Photo of Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie

He is also the author of several novels and collections of short fiction including Flight; Ten Little Indians; The Toughest Indian in the World; Indian Killer; Reservation Blues, which won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award; and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which received a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.

Among his other honors and awards are poetry fellowships from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award. He has also received the Stranger Genius Award, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, a National Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the PEN/Malamud Award, and a citation as “One of 20 Best American Novelists Under the Age of 40” from Granta magazine.

Alexie and Chris Eyre wrote the screenplay for the movie Smoke Signals, which was based on Alexie's short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” The movie won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998 and was released internationally by Miramax Films. He is also a three-time world heavyweight poetry slam champion. Alexie lives with his wife and son in Seattle, Washington.

Bio excerpted from poets.org


Reviews

"Funny and provocative—a trip worth taking"

- Ann Cummins, The Washington Post Book World

"Gutsy . . . Alexie has established an impressive literary reputation as a bold writer who goes straight for the aorta. He is in the business of making his readers laugh and cry. And his most recent novel is no exception. . . . Right up to the novel’s final sentence, Alexie succeeds yet again with his ability to pierce to the heart of matters, leaving this reader with tears in her eyes.”

- S. Kirk Walsh, The New York Times

"Few writers grab you by the emotional throat quicker than Sherman Alexie, and he doesn’t let go until the end. Actually, not after that, either. Flight, his first novel in more than a decade, does it again, taking off with the pace of a rocket, or more accurately a time machine, and landing right on target, in the molten bull’s-eye of the human heart. . . . This is Alexie’s genius—we instantly feel what it was like to be that person.”

- Jim Lenfestey, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Every few years we can only hope for a new Alexie work to sound a wake-up call, equal parts fierce and defiant, manic and irreverent. . . . An often thrilling and surprising ride, and wholly Alexie.”

- Anderson Tepper, Village Voice

Far more stark and morally intricate than any Hollywood blockbuster…. The most unpretentious novel I’ve read in a long time. It’s a narrative stripped to its core, all rage and heart…. Unceasingly cinematic…. Flightmight be categorized as a novel for particularly precocious young adults, but it also works on deeper levels. It’s raw and vital, often raucously funny, and there isn’t a false word in it.”

- Tom Barbash, New York Times Book Review

"The author grew up in Atherton, Calif., covered the tech boom as a writer for Wired magazine and Salon.com, and even edited a neo-feminist magazine, called Maxi. She knows this landscape well. It could be a minefield of cliches and tropes. But mostly- through humor, some deft plot twists, her eye for absurd detail and her ability to reveal the inner lives of her characters- she manages to steer clear of them, as well as temper sharp irony with a dose of mercy for the Millers."

- Newsday

"One more terrific novel to throw in the beach bag-maybe I like this one so much because the unlikely heroine is a magazine editor...although one who lives in L.A. and who has completely maxed out her credit card. Having been recently dumped by her famous actor boyfriend and struggling to keep up with her more successful movie-industry friends, Margaret has to make a change that will bring her-and her family-back from the brink. This is one for the book club."

- Glamour

"“Sherman Alexie never allows readers to wade timidly into turbulent waters of his novels or stories. Instead he simply hurls folks into the deep and seems to say, swim if you can – or dare.”

- Mark S. Luce, Los Angeles Times

Darkly funny, sharply observant, Flightlays bare the experience of a teenaged outsider circa 2007. Alternately heartbreaking and wondrous, Sherman Alexie’s first novel in ten years tells the story of an orphan careening through foster homes until finally, not long after we meet him, he walks into a bank and comes unstuck in time. Gritty, intense, and especially timely.”

- Mark S. Luce, Los Angeles Times

Alexie uses a daring conceit to implicate our naiveté toward the cyclical nature of violence and revenge. … In Flight, Alexie forces the reader to view the players close-up and to witness the acts of personal betrayal and heroism against the landscape of larger political forces, blowing us about and hopefully returning us to something that resembles home.”

- Alexios Moore, Boldtype

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