By Sherman Alexie
Reviewed by Helen Trejo, 18, Downtown Magnets HS (2008 graduate)
Sherman Alexie’s Flight took me on an intense journey through history that helps a person find himself. It left me astonished. The story begins with the main character speaking to the reader. He tells us to call him Zits. He is a 15-year-old, half-Native American, half-Irish boy with an identity crisis and low self-esteem that comes from the death of his mother and the absence of his father.
Growing up Zits moves from foster home to foster home. When he meets Justice, a bad older kid who he looks up to, he is easily manipulated. Justice convinces him that if he kills people, his parents will come back. Zits enters a bank with guns and the intention of killing anyone he sees.
While in the act of the crime, his imagination begins a journey through history. At this point, I was confused because I did not know whether Zits was experiencing the history or if it was just in his imagination, but this made it more engaging and I was more interested in finding out what would happen next. His mind time-travels as his soul enters the bodies of different people who played significant roles in history. He becomes an FBI agent during the civil rights era, a Native American child during the Battle of Little Bighorn, a Native American elder during the 1800s, and a present-day airplane pilot. All of these characters are involved in violent acts that help Zits realize that violence is unjust. This experience teaches him this lesson perfectly because he did not have anyone telling him what was right and wrong in his life.
His last embodiment has a direct connection with him because he becomes his father. It is the most important one because it helps him discover who he is and what he has to do to be a better person. I thought that the entire journey was a creative way to show how Zits discovers his own identity through scenes in history. After Zits’ journey ends he acknowledges his real name, Michael, showing that he is finally proud of who he is.
I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it because of the unpredictable plot and because I was able to learn from it. Although it is fiction, it gave insight into the few stories I have heard about the history of Native Americans. It shows how stereotypes both true and false ones have influenced Native American history. This is a book that makes me wonder how American history has shaped my identity because I thought about myself as I was reading the book. Events in American history have helped me become a more independent thinker, like Zits was as he embodied different people and learned to distinguish right from wrong.