Monday, November 08, 2010

Flygirl Soars With the Spirit of the WASP

(Image from Indiebound)
"The dreams of one little colored girl don't matter to a world at war. But they matter to me" (18).

All Ida Mae Jones has ever wanted to do is fly. Since the moment her father first hoisted her into his Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," she's been addicted to hurtling through the clouds. Now that fuel's being rationed due to the war, Ida can't even carry on her father's crop dusting business. She's been grounded and it's killing her. With her father dead and her brother off at war, Ida knows her family needs her at home. Still, she refuses to lose sight of her goal: As soon as she saves enough of the money she's making cleaning houses, she's headed straight to the Coffey School of Aeronautics in Chicago. It's the only institution where a colored woman like herself can get a pilot's license. No matter how many floors she has to scrub, Ida Mae's determined to reach her goal.

When she sees an advertisement for the newly formed WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots), Ida Mae knows it's a golden opportunity, not only to get herself back into the air but also to help her country. Although the ad doesn't forbid colored women from applying, Ida Mae's not about to take the chance. With her light skin and "good" hair, she's always been the envy of her friends - if anyone can "pass" as white, it's her. When she's sent to Texas for training, Ida Mae's filled with gut-twisting anxiety. "Passing" in Slidell, Louisiana, is one thing, getting caught in the Lone Star State could end with a noose around her neck. But, she has to try. Between proving herself to the WASPs naysayers, remembering not to act like a housemaid, and attempting to forget the white man who occupies too many of her thoughts, Ida Mae's got her work cut out for her. She may lose everything she knows - her family, her friends, her very self - in the process, but nothing will stop Ida Mae from flying. Nothing.
Embracing the soaring spirit of the WASP, Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith is the triumphant story of a woman determined to make her dreams come true, no matter what. Although it touches on dark subjects, the novel has a gentle cadence that makes it affecting in a quiet, understated way. At times Ida Mae's plight seems a little too easy and a tad unrealistic (How is it that none of her new friends ever ask to see a family photo?), but I still found Flygirl immensely compelling. The fact that it didn't end with a neatly tied-up finale made it even better. I loved it.
(Readalikes: It reminds me of the movie Amelia. I can't think of any books, though. Can you?)
Grade: B
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and very mild sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: I bought Flygirl with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

3 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting! Can I borrow this book?

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  2. So, so glad to see this book get more attention. I loved it. Especially that ending!

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  3. I want this book so badly!

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