Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith (book review) – flying for her country, despite prejudice

book cover of Flygirl by Sherri L Smith published by PenguinWorld War II made Uncle Sam let women fly military planes.
Grit made women pilots endure ‘this man’s Army’ to become WASPs, flying routine Stateside runs in 1943-44.
Ida Mae dared to  ‘pass for white’ so she could fly again, in memory of her father.

While this book is fiction, the prejudices faced by “farm hick” Ida and her bunkmates “rich Jew” Lily and “carnie” Patsy the air show wing-walker were commonplace during World War II, as was the constant danger that Ida would be lynched if her not-white origins were revealed.

Training was tough; only half of WASP trainees made it to actual missions – delivering aircraft to bases, stress-testing new military planes, towing targets for artillery practice – but they weren’t recognized for their military service until 1977!

Flygirl has been out in paperback since 2010, so you should easily be able to find this riveting story at your local library or favorite independent bookstore.

How far can Ida fly and remain true to herself?

Book info: Flygirl / Sherri L. Smith. Speak, 2010 (Penguin hardcover, 2008).  [author site]  [publisher site]  [fan-created book trailer] [author video interview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: If passing for white will get Ida Mae back into the sky during World War II, she’ll do it – but how long can she live the lie and stay away from her family?

When the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots begin to test and transfer planes so military pilots are free for combat missions, Ida dreams of flying again, wondering if Uncle Sam is desperate enough to take black women pilots.

Light-skinned Ida applies anyway – she can use her late daddy’s flying lessons to serve her country, though she can never allow anyone to know her true roots.

One error at the WASP training base, and Ida will be sent home as a failure.
One mistaken calculation, and she could crash a much-needed training plane.
One slip-up that shows she’s not white, and the consequences could be deadly.

Test flights in unstable new planes, competition to be on a crew, bad news from overseas and from home – there really is a war on, and Ida is fighting it on more fronts than any of her fellow WASP pilots can imagine. (One of 6,000 books recommended on

One thought on “Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith (book review) – flying for her country, despite prejudice

  1. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: February 22, 2014 | Semicolon

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.