Alexie’s ‘Flight’: fantastic Native American literature

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

Is the answer to violence really more violence?

This is one of many questions that Sherman Alexie asks in his 2007 novel “Flight,” which follows a young Native American boy nicknamed “Zits” as he struggles to find his place in society.

In and out of foster homes, Zits shows a difficulty dealing with the anger he carries with him everywhere.

Other characters include a friendly police officer who wants only the best for Zits, despite having had to arrest him on several occasions, and a mysterious figure that may not have Zits’ best intentions in mind when he gives him advice.

If you are familiar with Native American literature, you have likely heard of Sherman Alexie or read one of his short stories. Many of his short story collections, such as 2009’s “War Dances,” are well known in literary circles. “War Dances” was reviewed in the New York Times.

“Flight” deals with many of the same themes that other notable Alexie works deal with, most notably the persecution of all minorities, not just Native Americans. “Flight” contains one particularly poignant section that deals almost exclusively with the relationship between a flight instructor and his Muslim student.

The story, in fact, features Zits learning about several different types of people in a unique way, including historical figures and people who have played an important role in his own life.

I won’t spoil how exactly Zits learns about these other people, but it’s a really neat way of having a character learn to relate to others.

“Flight,” however, may not be for everyone because it is a violent book.

This is not a criticism of the work in any way — “Flight” deals with Native American history and Native American history has been violent. Alexie is perfectly justified in writing a violent novel in this situation.

That does, however, limit the potential audience, much like the vulgarity in “The Heming Way,” which we reviewed previously in the Lariat, limited its respective audience.

If you’re interested in Native American history or literature — or even just looking for a fast-paced novel to flip through on a quick break somewhere — “Flight” is a must-read.

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