Fly Girls: Book summary and reviews of Fly Girls by Keith O'Brien

Fly Girls

How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History

by Keith O'Brien

Fly Girls by Keith O'Brien X
Fly Girls by Keith O'Brien

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About this book

Book Summary

The untold story of five women who fought to compete against men in the high-stakes national air races of the 1920s and 1930s — and won.

Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Thousands of fans flocked to multi-day events, and cities vied with one another to host them. The pilots themselves were hailed as dashing heroes who cheerfully stared death in the face. Well, the men were hailed. Female pilots were more often ridiculed than praised for what the press portrayed as silly efforts to horn in on a manly, and deadly, pursuit. Fly Girls recounts how a cadre of women banded together to break the original glass ceiling: the entrenched prejudice that conspired to keep them out of the sky.

O'Brien weaves together the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high-school dropout who worked for a dry cleaner in Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcee; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at the constraints of her blue-blood family's expectations; and Louise Thaden, the mother of two young kids who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to race against the men — and in 1936 one of them would triumph in the toughest race of all.

Like Hidden Figures and Girls of Atomic City, Fly Girls celebrates a little-known slice of history wherein tenacious, trail-blazing women braved all obstacles to achieve greatness.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Pearson's accessible and immediate portrait of the women aviators whose organization became known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) highlights the courage and tenacity that bound them together during WWII. Ages 10 and up." - Publishers Weekly

"A solid account of women's contributions as aviators during World War II." - Kirkus

"A fine purchase that provides a more balanced and empowered perspective of U.S. history." - School Library Journal

"If you liked The Boys in The Boat or Unbroken, you'll love Fly Girls. This story - carefully researched and expertly written - offers an irresistible cast of characters and high-octane drama. Buckle up; you're in for a hell of a ride." - Jonathan Eig, author of Ali.

"At the dawn of aviation, when every flight was a test of courage, a remarkable band of female pilots proved that a woman's place is in the sky – or anywhere else she wants to be. This book is a soaring tribute to forgotten American heroes, filled with white-knuckle thrills and gut-wrenching emotion. It'll take your breath away." - Mitchell Zuckoff, author of 13 Hours

The information about Fly Girls shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Emily C. (Naples, FL)

A Historical Gem
As a retired teacher of high school American history, I thoroughly enjoyed this historical gem. This is an area of American history with which I was totally unfamiliar, except for the story of Amelia Earhart. Had this book existed 30 years ago when I was teaching, I would have made it required reading for my students.

Keith O'Brien, a former reporter for the Boston Globe, has presented a thoroughly researched account of five of the daring American women who defied the odds to fly and race airplanes during the 1920's and 1930's. The stories of Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nicholas, Ruth Elder, Louise Thaden, and Florence Kingensmith are both riveting and inspirational.

O'Brien did an exceptional job of researching the history of these early aviators by: examining letters; both published and unpublished memoirs; news articles from the period; and material from a variety of archives.

Upset by the sexist rules that prevented women aviators from competing in any race against men, the women banded together to form the "Ninety-Nines" in order "to help women become true individuals industrially, mentally and spiritually."

I highly recommend FLY GIRLS to anyone who is interested in early aviation, the extreme sexism of the period, and the dangers of early flight. All young women of today should read this book, if only to see how far the so-called Women's Movement has come thanks to the courage and persistence of these women.

Jana G. (Houston, TX)

Fly Girls
This book was a pleasure to read. The historical significance of women in flight is brought to life in Mr. O'Brien's book. The camaraderie among these women and their willingness to reach greater heights even among difficulty is inspirational. I did not know until I read Pilot's Wife and discovered that Anne Lindbergh was a navigator and pilot and was as much a pioneer as her husband that their might possibly be other women in flight besides Amelia Earhart. This is what ultimately led me to want to read this book and I was delighted to discover what I suspected was right. Thank you Mr. O'Brien for bringing these women to light and marking their contribution to aviation.

obsessedreader

A Soaring Read!
Keith O'Brien's Fly Girls is, to me, the best non-fiction book of 2018. This detailed account of five brave women who made aviation history is written in a smooth, lively way that keeps the reader involved.I learned an incredible amount, and my reading stayed on a very high (soaring) level.

I was amazed at how many women met the innumerable challenges of aviation's earlier days. I had been clueless.

Kevin O'Brien is a gifted author: he kept me enthralled throughout the book. I am grateful for what he has taught me. I will be buying copies for gifts.

Ann B. (Kernville, CA)

A well grounded account of women pioneers of the air
Veteran NPR journalist Keith O'Brien succeeds in bringing these female (and feminist) aviation pioneers to life. I very much enjoyed following the arc of narrative that O'Brien constructed using primary and secondary source materials, such as journals, news clips, letters, and such. This necessary approach (as all his characters were dead) and the clever hooks that closed each chapter remind me of Erik Larson's books and certainly Daniel James Brown's _Boys in the Boat_. This book should definitely appeal to fans of _Boys in the Boat_, for its similar focus on unsung, underdog sports pioneers and because it, too, is an excellent example of narrative nonfiction.

Charlene M. (Myrtle Beach, SC)

Fly Girls
Keith O'Brien has written an awesome book about a forgotten time in America's history. "Fly Girls" brought to life the struggle of women, not just women avatrixes, for equality; to be admired for their intelligence and fortitude; recognition; and tragedy of the early flying pioneers. I googled the fliers, plane types, plane manufacturers, wood vs metal, designs - the magical awakening of the airplane age. I consider "Fly Girls" one of the best books I have read.

Sara P. (Longview, WA)

Fly Girls
In the history of American aviation women had amazing contributions. There were many more than Earhart that attempted and accomplished firsts like flying across the continent; participating in airshows doing dangerous stunts successfully, and winning air races. Ruth Nichols who crashed, but lived in her attempt to cross the Atlantic was one of these female pilots. All were determined and brave and should be remembered.

...19 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Keith O'Brien

Keith O'Brien is an award-winning journalist, a former reporter for the Boston Globe, a regular contributor to National Public Radio and Politico, and a critically acclaimed author of books about dreams, Americana, and where the two meet. He has written for the New York Times Magazine and reported stories for This American Life. He was a 2017 finalist for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. He lives in New Hampshire.

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