Saturday, August 1, 2009

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Rating: 4.5/5

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her. When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots—and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.

I.Q. "Isn't it funny ladies, how there's always a man at the bottom of everything we do?" Audrey

First of all, I want to make something clear. Flygirl is only slightly similar to Mare's War. This is good for both books as they are both unique and wonderful in their own way. I'm glad I read Flygirl soon after Mare's War because I was still in the WWII mindset, but you certainly don't need to read them one after the other. Sherri Smith's writing is so descriptive, I really liked how she took us into the mindset people had about the WAC (Women's Army Corps) and the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). They viewed them as either "funny" (lesbian) or man hungry. They had no respect for them and didn't think the WASP could fly planes. Also the discrimination that women, especially black women faced (while I knew it existed and was really bad) was frustrating, the author made it seem so real, that you got all wrapped up in it. Also, while I had heard of the WASP, I didn't know that black women weren't allowed to be in the WASP. I don't understand why they weren't allowed since they had black women in the WAC (segregated but still there).
The WASP were used to fly test planes that men were too scared to fly to prove that if a woman could do it so could a man, but they weren't allowed to actually fly them off base. The WASP weren't allowed to fly planes across the Atlantic. Neither the WASPs or the WAC were allowed to be in combat. The WACs were radio operators or secretaries. The WASP were ferrying pilots (they ferried new planes from factories to the coast where they were shipped overseas to help in WWII), flew on weather-checking missions, or they towed targets for artillery practice. This book really made you admire the courage and perseverance of the WASP. Anyway enough of the history lesson (the history lover in me came out).

The plot was really good and original. Ida Mae Jones decides to pass as white to pursue her dreams of becoming a pilot in the WASP. The hardship she went through, the struggle to maintain her black identity while pretending to be white and remember who she is were described wonderfully (when her mother visits Ida at the WASP base it reminded me of a scene from Imitation of Life). This book really made me wonder, if I lived in that time would I have passed (if I could) for white in order to follow my dreams no matter the cost (denying my people, not getting to openly acknowledge my family)? Ida Mae was always on edge, afraid of slipping up and saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. She was constantly wary and unable to really trust anyone. I admire her (and all the other black women who passed as white to follow their dreams, although there is no record that any black woman ever did that in the WASP).

made me want to go out and learn how to fly an airplane (or at least fly in one so that I can sit in the front and observe the pilot). The way the characters describe their love of flying makes you want to try it. The humor of the WASP was great, they tried to see the best in a situation and prove themselves to the men and they were always joking around and singing.
My favorite character was Patsy "Cakewalk" Kake. She was so nice, fun, accepting, funny and daring. She stuck up for her friends and she didn't take any nonsense from the male instructors, officers, pilots or soldiers. One of my favorite quotes of hers is "Saddle up girls. It's time to stick it to them, right in the relief tube." (A relief tube is tube on a plane made for men to relieve themselves while they fly, for obvious reasons it didn't work so well for women). I especially love how she was a wing walker (someone who flies a plane and makes the wings move, does handstands and other tricks) and put this skill to good use (one of the best scenes in the book is when she wing walks, but I can't say anymore!). She teaches Ida about worry knots (which is when you tie a knot in your handkerchief to push it aside and you untie it when you're done worrying), which is a nice idea, although it wouldn't really work today since few people carry around handkerchiefs! She's an all around awesome character.

I didn't really like the ending. It made it seem like a sequel may be forthcoming (although I don't think there is). I felt it was a bit of a cliffhanger, there are some unresolved issues that need to be cleared up.
All in all I thought this book was excellent. A good read for anyone even if you don't like history. 8th grade and up.

Check out this link here, Kimberly Anyadike is believed to be the youngest African American girl to fly across the country. Congrats to her!

On another totally different note, author Celise Downs is looking for beta readers to read and critique her newest book A Royale Pain: The Draven Atreides Teenage Informant Series. For more information or to sign up go here

PS I'm going to have my first contest soon! *grins* I have been babysitting like crazy trying to save up some money and now I have a sum to pay for the book and postage! Stay tuned. It'll probably be a 2 or 3 book giveaway. I want to get 50 followers before I began the contest though (this may change since I'm just so excited about it)
peaking of contests. Tashi is having an awesome one! I read and really liked Jason & Kyra, Played not so much.

Oh my gosh! I almost forgot. I'm participating in the August Color Me Brown Challenge hosted by Susan. I'm thinking everyone should enter (*hint hint* contest. You can win a prize from Susan and maybe me!). I certainly am.


  1. Another great review. Did you link to Color Me Brown?

  2. So glad you liked this! It definitely got to the history buff in me, but I agree with you that it's not the type of historical fiction that requires someone to love history in order to get into the story. I did like the ending, but I tend to like open endings more than some people.

  3. This sounds so good! Having recently read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, where one of the main characters is an ambulance driver during WW2, I'm definitely in the mood for more books about women's lives during the war.

  4. You sold me--I'll be adding it to the list. You got my vote, too!

  5. Thanks everyone for the the support!
    Zetta I'm so glad you're going to read this book!

  6. who gives ida the hankie?


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