Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith - review
African-American girl-powered WWII historical fiction? Hell, this book would get the thumbs-up from me on the strength of its demographic and seasonal usefulness alone! I'm going to be passing this baby out right and left when historical fiction season is upon us. But I'm going to feel good about doing so on the strength of the unusual story and interesting characters.
Taught to fly by her late father, a farmer with a sideline in crop dusting, all Ida Mae wants is a life among the clouds. But after she graduates from high school, she's stuck cleaning houses and living at home with her mom, little brother, and grandfather, because not only is Ida Mae a girl, and a farm girl at that, she's a black farm girl in the American South in the 1940's.
When the United States enters World War II, and later creates the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, Ida Mae grabs at her chance to fly and to serve her country. However, her race is still a barrier, and she enters the WASP "passing" for white.
So many terrific topics are brought up here - gender and racial discrimination, of course, but also the friction of maintaining a falsehood in order to attain one's true potential.
Flygirl is maybe not the most fluidly-written book - many characters appear to express emotion either by blushing or grinning - but it's one I can recommend with my head held high, and one I'll enjoy discussing with some of my more thoughtful young friends.