4Q 3P; Audience: M/J
The training is hard for all the girls, and many of them wash out quickly. But the training is even harder when you have a secret that absolutely can not be discovered. Not only does she have the fear of wondering what the consequences of discovery would be, she's also cut off from her family. She doesn't dare stay in touch with them for fear of her secret being discovered. It's a hard life, made even harder by the guilt she feels over lying about who she is. She can only hope it will all be worth it in the end.
I enjoyed reading this book. Though I've read lots of books set in the 1940's and/or about World War II, I'd never read one on this topic before. I know very little about the role women played in the war and very little about the early days of the Air Force. I know a little bit more about race relations at that time, but I don't think I've read another novel about someone trying to pass as white, so that was a fresh perspective, too.
I found the details of Ida Mae's training quite interesting. I wanted more, though. I know it would have made the book longer, but I felt we got just a taste when I wanted a mouthful. But it was certainly clear by the end of the book that, no matter how stringent their training, the Army didn't consider the women to be "real" pilots, at times using them as guinea pigs and as a "see, even a woman can do it" taunt to the male pilots. At the same time, it was also clear that these pioneering women played a valuable role during World War II, whether or not they were given credit for all they did. It's hard to believe it took over forty years for their service to be properly recognized.
At one point in her training, Ida Mae's mother comes to see her. Ida Mae can't hug her or kiss her, or even call her Mama. Instead, they have to play the role of servant and mistress. It's humiliating and terribly painful for both of them. I finished this book several weeks ago, and that scene has stuck in my memory. It was a shattering example of the pain the racial attitudes of the day could inflict.