In Sherri L. Smith’s Flygirl, readers are introduced to the Women Airforce Service Pilots, a group of female pilots that served during World War II. Ida Mae Jones is determined to become one of these pilots. Only when she’s in the air does she feel truly free. There’s one major problem, though. WASP doesn’t accept African American pilots. Ida Mae is determined that this will not stop her, and she decides to “pass” as a white woman in her quest to become a pilot.
Ida Mae, or Jonesy as her new friends call her, does just what she set out to do. She becomes a pilot in the service of the U.S. Army. She feels like she’s really doing something to help the war effort, but she is torn because she must hide her true self in order to do what she loves. She can never tell anyone that she’s just pretending to be white. If anyone finds out, her entire future is over, and her very life could be in jeopardy. Will she ever get to really be herself, or will she spend the rest of her life hiding? Can she ever be free outside of an airplane? Read Flygirl to find out.
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed Flygirl. I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this book captivated me from the very beginning. (I am a feminist, so that might help to explain it.) I didn’t know much about the female pilots during WWII, so this story enlightened me a bit. While reading, I was mad at the injustices that Ida Mae endured, both as a woman and as an African American, just so she could do what she was born to do. I can almost understand pretending to be someone you’re not so that you can do what you love. Almost. I honestly don’t know if I could give up my family or my identity for anything, but I’ve never been put in that situation, so I don’t really know what I would do.
I think Flygirl would be excellent supplemental reading for social studies classes studying World War II. This would be an excellent resource to introduce students to the role of women in the war effort. Most people have heard of Rosie the Riveter, but this book may give them another glimpse of how women sacrificed and made military contributions during World War II.