Well I feel rather silly, in my rush to get out reviews of books from 2011 out before the New Year I completely neglected this slightly older book I read around the same time and I feel really dumb because I liked this book, it wasn't even a mediocre one you could be forgiven for forgetting! Thankfully the picture of the female firefighters from Pearl Harbor is still circulating around the web that that jotted my memory that hey, I read a (fictional) book that also involved women, women of color, and world war II recently, I need to talk about it!
Flygirl by Sherri L Smith
Summary: Ida Mae has loved to fly after her daddy first took her up in his crop duster years and years ago but there are two big problems in the way. First, she is a woman in the early years of World War II and secondly, an even bigger problem, she's African-American. She is however light enough (in skin tone) to "pass" as a white lady and makes the bold and potentially very very dangerous decision to apply and then train as a Women Airforce Service Pilot since it's the only way to get back into the sky she loves.
The Good: The book is a work of fiction, inspired by real WASPs but they were all white, but the entire book feels so believable that it's hard to remember that sometimes. The problems that Ida Mae and her friends (both her African-American friends and the other WASPs) face felt realistic and the book struck a nice balance showing the privileges Ida had when she was passing as white and yet how even they have so many restrictions on what they can and can't do (which can be hard to remember at times). The progression of the story also felt very natural, there were both hardships and successes and you need both of those to make a story feel real and on that level Smith has really succeeded.
The Bad: The historical setting almost worked against itself at times, if you know any US history involving women, people of color especially, and world war II it's just so hard to believe that the story will end well that it makes the book a little depressing at times (I was just waiting until someone caught her passing so the book got extra tense at times). Not much the author can do about that however and really that was my only major complaint about the book. There was a mention or two that Lily was Jewish and I would have liked that explored a little more but the book doesn't feel like it's lacking anything.
Excellent book, really need to read more historical books, and I could easily recommend this to quite a few people out there.
Also, new schedule starts tomorrow, not that anything is going to be any different tomorrow, just as a final reminder about that!