As I showed Tuesday, I've been a roll lately with great reads. If only I didn't have anything else to do but read!
This novel took me completely by surprise. It started out fairly ordinary: Ida Mae would give anything to be a pilot like her dead father, but she's only a poor maid and black in Jim Crow South. Except the more I read, the more I got sucked in. Like when Ida Mae forges a pilot's license and tricks the air force recruiter. Or when she borrows her employer's shawl and hat for her WASP interview, but forgets to change before she gets home. And her little brother calls out, "There's a white lady coming up the walk!" Smith did an incredible job of raising the stakes. I don't think I've ever read a novel about an African American passing as white, and certainly never thought about how frightening it would be. I was gritting my teeth as Ida Mae danced with her white teacher; not because he was older, or in a position of authority over her, but because the very act was illegal. The book was full of tension-filled details like this that brought the story to life. And lots of questions, too. What should we give up to chase a dream? Our family? Our own identity? Ida believes she's joined the army to help her brother, who's serving in the Philippines. But what responsibility does a person have in war for a country that doesn't treat her as an equal?
I also loved that the book hardly mentioned romance, but rather friendship, and women supporting each other to reach their goals. Such an affirming, yet thought-provoking read. It would make a great book to read in schools. There were a few places where I felt let down by the plot, where problems weren't resolved, or explored in enough depth. But overall, I loved FLYGIRL.
Any other Sherri L. Smith fans out there? What books of hers should I read next?