Ida Mae Jones has always wanted to fly. Ever since she was put behind the wheel (is it a wheel?) of her daddy’s Jenny and taught how, she knew that this was what she was born to do. Except, she’s an African American (yes, I am being politically correct here), and lives in the outskirts of New Orleans. Not only can she not get a pilot’s license because she’s a woman; she can’t get one because she’s the wrong color.
It’s only when her younger brother spies and article about the Army’s WASP program (that’s Women’s Airforce Service Pilots), and that there was a Chinese-American woman in it, that Ida gets an inkling of an idea. She forges her daddy’s pilot’s license, and since she’s light enough skinned to pass for white, she applies. And gets in.
The part in the program is what interested me the most about Smith’s book. I thought that while the conflict between black and white, and Ida’s internal conflict about lying about who she really is, was interesting (and probably worth some thought), I really liked Ida learning how to fly military planes. I liked the challenges posed by the program, the obstacles she had to surmount in order to succeed in a man’s world. It was not only historically interesting, but had a universal appeal: what woman hasn’t faced the “you can’t do it because you’re a girl” and fought her way to success in whatever that is?
It’s books like these that make one grateful for the pioneers, the women who were courageous enough to break the race, sex, or whatever barrier, and achieve their dreams. And it’s good to have a book like this to remind us of it. As well as being a cracking good story.