On March 10, 2010 the United States Congress awarded over 1000 women the Congressional Medal of Honor for service to their country during WWII. These women were part of the Women Airforce Service Pilot program, the WASPs. Flygirl is a fictional account of one of them. Ida Mae Jones learned to fly with her Daddy in his crop-duster. She is saving every penny to go to Chicago to test for her pilot’s license. Problem is, because her Daddy died a few years back, Ida Mae’s mother needs her to help support the family. But when her little brother shows her an advertisement for female relief pilots to help the war effort, Ida Mae knows this is her chance. Passing as a white girl and forging her name on her father’s license, Ida Mae gets accepted to the WASP program. While Ida Mae loves being a WASP, she is torn up over hurting her family and by lying to her new white friends. Every day she expects to be found out and kicked out of the program even as she successfully completes important and dangerous missions for the government.
This is a very well written story with lots of humor, suspense and history. It would have been an interesting story had Ida Mae been a white girl, but to make her one who was ‘passing’ added a fascinating complexity to the story as she not only broke out of a gendered cage, but a racial one as well.
Flygirl is a story about a light-skinned African American, Ida Mae Jones, who is devoted to flying. In Slidell, Louisiana, during the 1940s, an African American woman can’t do much. When her brother, Thomas, joins the army, Ida is determined to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs in order to support the war effort, but must try to pass as a white girl to be accepted. During WASP training, Ida Mae meets Patsy Kake and Lily Lowenstein who become her closest friends. Ida Mae feels content with her new life in the sky, but lonelier than ever, lying to everybody about who she really is. When Thomas goes missing, Ida Mae feels her world will never be the same, for the army won’t go back to look for an African American soldier. Then a WASP accident occurs and Ida Mae feels almost helpless, but she won’t let it stop her.
I loved Flygirl. I mostly enjoyed the way everything seemed to work out and I was always rooting for Ida Mae Jones. In the end, however, the story doesn’t explain if Ida Mae continued in the military or if she decided to go back to Slidell and work things out with her family. The writing was excellent and the story had laugh-out-loud humor. I would give it five stars and definitely suggest this novel to my family and friends.