UNT to present events related to novel by American Indian writer

Thursday, September 16, 2010

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The first line of Sherman Alexie's novel Flight invokes one of the most famous opening lines of a novel -- but instead of "Call me Ishmael," spoken by a sailor embarking on a perilous hunt for great white whale, it's "Call me Zits," from a 15-year-old self-described drunk with 47 pimples on his face.

Zits -- a foster child whose American Indian father abandoned him when he was born and whose Irish mother died years ago -- experiences anger, rejection and self-doubt before deciding to shoot bystanders at a local bank. Before he can do that, he finds himself in the body of an FBI agent living circa 1975. Zits also travels through time in other bodies -- those of an Indian child at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, an Indian tracker from the Army living in the same era, a guilt-ridden flight instructor and Zits' own homeless father. By experiencing others' lives, Zits learns about love and forgiveness, and begins to consider his foster family his "real" family and have hope for his future.

The University of North Texas will present three events in September and October related to Flight, which Alexie, an American Indian who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Wash., published in 2007.

Flight is the book that all incoming freshmen at UNT were encouraged to read this past summer for One Book, One Community, an annual year-long reading and discussion program focusing on a chosen theme and a book that reflects that theme. All three events are free and open to the public.


Sept. 21 (Tuesday)

7 p.m. -- Panel discussion on Flight. Panelists are Tiffanie Coleman, director of community services for Denton County Friends of the Family, who will speak on Flight's theme of abuse in families; Dr. Linda Holloway, chair of UNT's Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work and Addictions, who will explore the book's foster care and family themes; and Jonathan Tomhave, an instructor of American Indian studies in UNT's Departments of Anthropology and Radio, Television and Film, who will discuss the American Indian and multicultural themes in the book. Dr. Elisabeth Warren, UNT director of housing, will moderate the panel. First floor of UNT's Willis Library, which is located one block east of Highland Street and Avenue C (1506 W. Highland St.) 


Sept. 29 (Wednesday)

7 p.m. -- Screening of Smoke Signals. This film, which premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and won the festival's Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy, is based on a short story that Alexie included in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, his first collection of short stories. Smoke Signals focuses on the journey of two young American Indian men as they leave their reservation and travel to Arizona to collect the cremated remains of the estranged father of one of the men, who saved the other young man from a fire years before. Alexie co-wrote the film's screenplay. Media Library (Room 111C) in UNT's Chilton Hall, which is located on the southwest corner of Avenue C and Chestnut Street (410 Avenue C). 


Oct. 6 (Wednesday)

7 p.m. -- Screening of The Exiles. This 1961 film depicts 12 hours in the lives of American Indians -- from late afternoon on a Friday until dawn on a Saturday -- who live in Los Angeles' inner city. The films' characters, which include a married couple expecting a child, reflect on life in the city versus life on the reservation. Media Library, Chilton Hall.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108