illustrated portrait of American Indian author Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

Start Free Trial

What is the summary of Sherman Alexie's "Flight Patterns"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is the story of William, a Spokane Indian salesman who works for a think tank and travels around the USA frequently on business trips. The story is set in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. The majority of the story is set in a taxi on the way to the airport. During the drive, William has a fascinating conversation with the cab driver, an Ethiopian man named Fekadu.

After sharing anecdotes about what it means to have brown skin in a world in which many Americans are suddenly terrified of people with brown skins, William and Fekadu commiserate about racists that they have encountered. Fekadu shares that he was actually a fighter pilot back in Ethiopia. As a child prodigy, Fekadu had been sent by Emperor Haile Selassie to study at Oxford. Thereafter, he became a fighter pilot for Selassie, killing many of his own people in that role. He eventually decided he had to leave as he couldn't be a part of the military anymore. He had to leave his family behind in Ethiopia while he escaped for political reasons. At the time of his conversation with William, he has not seen his family in decades and has no prospect of seeing them again.

William is extremely moved by the encounter with Fekadu, and their conversation helps him reflect on many aspects of his own life.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial