50 Books by Authors of Color: Book 38
Author: Sherri L. Smith
This book was actually recommended by a friend of mine after I told her about this project, well after she mistakenly recommended Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice. While an excellent book and an interesting look at a person who was prominent in history but ignored, I decided not to feature it for this blog because the actual author isn’t one of color.
I actually read reviews of Flygirl before reading it, something I refused to do with any of the other books I read for this project (or for any of the books I read for that matter) the number one complaint was that Jacqueline Woodson recommended it. Which, personally, as a huge Jacqueline Woodson fan, I don’t get but whatever.
Ida Mae Jones is a teenage black girl living in the early years of World War II. Her brother Thomas is serving as a doctor in the (segregated) army. Ida Mae is so light skinned and has “good” hair that she can easily pass for white. While Ida Mae works as a maid with her dark skinned friend Jolene she learns about a group known as WASP: Women Air Support Pilots and decides to join. Living in the 1940’s means that not only is segregation in full force, but racism is so rampant that Ida Mae knows the only way she’ll be accepted is to pretend to be white (along with forging her pilots license).
To make matters worse, Ida Mae is sent to do her training in Texas (and we all know what a awesome pool of racial acceptance Texas was back then) where she is constantly in fear of being discovered. Ida Mae faces challenges to who she is, especially with a romantic encounter with Walt, a flight instructor, and a visit from her mother. Ida struggles to try and balance what she wants, to fly, with the limitations of who she is, a woman of color living in America before the Civil Rights Movement.
The writing in this book is excellent, you really do get inside of Ida Mae’s head and feel the turmoil and confusion that she is experiencing, but, and this is a huge but, I couldn’t do what she did. Not the being a military pilot, it’s befriending people who would think less of you if they knew what you really are. The way they talked about Ida Mae’s mother just disgusted me, not a one said anything to her defense, and the only thing Ida Mae’s mother did “wrong” was being a woman of color. I guess I wanted more out of Ida Mae, I wanted her to want more than a black girl passing to be a pilot.
Overall Rating: 3/5 it was good but it left a bad taste in my mouth.