American Flygirl by Susan Tate Ankeny

I was debating about needing a new non-fiction type novel when American Flygirl by Susan Tate Ankeny popped up in a NetGalley email.  Since it was marketed as YA and historically based, it sounded like a good choice for me.  And my daughter pointed out that it should be read during AAPI month anyhow.

My Thoughts:

Going back to the beginnings of aviation in the United States, American Flygirl tells the story of Hazel King Lee, the first Asian American woman to earn her pilot's license in the United States. Born to Chinese immigrants, Lee was raised in Portland where opportunities for Asians were limited. With the assistance of the Chinese Benevolent Society, Hazel is selected to earn her pilot license, with the hopes of one day flying for the Chinese Air Force in the war against Japan, then for the WASPs in the United States.

American Flygirl is a short biography of Lee, along with the history of Chinese American male aviators and other female WASP members. Ankeny shares much about several mostly unknown pioneers, not just Lee. She does an admirable job showing the prejudice faced by early pilots who were not white males, and sheds light on the programs the US shared with China during WW2. It's an enjoyable, informative read for those interested in this part of history.

About American Fly Girl:

In 1932, Hazel Ying Lee, a nineteen-year-old American daughter of Chinese immigrants, sat in on a friend’s flight lesson. It changed her life. In less than a year, a girl with a wicked sense of humor, a newfound love of flying, and a tough can-do attitude earned her pilot’s license and headed for China to help against invading Japanese forces. In time, Hazel would become the first Asian American to fly with the Women Airforce Service Pilots. As thrilling as it may have been, it wasn’t easy.

In America, Hazel felt the oppression and discrimination of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In China’s field of male-dominated aviation she was dismissed for being a woman, and for being an American. But in service to her country, Hazel refused to be limited by gender, race, and impossible dreams. Frustrated but undeterred she forged ahead, married Clifford Louie, a devoted and unconventional husband who cheered his wife on, and gave her all for the cause achieving more in her short remarkable life than even she imagined possible.

American Flygirl is the untold account of a spirited fighter and an indomitable hidden figure in American history. She broke every common belief about women. She challenged every social restriction to endure and to succeed. And against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Hazel Ying Lee reached for the skies and made her mark as a universal and unsung hero whose time has come.

Purchase American Fly Girl on Amazon.