Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

Book review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories


Book Review Flying LessonsSo, have you heard the one about … ?

Of course you have. You’re all over social media. You know what’s going on; sometimes it feels like you’ve heard it all, and maybe you have. Now in “Flying Lessons & Other Stories,” edited by Ellen Oh, you’ll hear it from a different side.

When your family gets together, what kinds of stories do they tell about you? Are they embarrassing or funny? Do you remember them, or was this something that merely lives in family lore? And doesn’t everybody have stories like that?

Says Oh, “… no matter what, our stories are unique, just like we are.” And so she presents ten of them.

In “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court…” a future pro basketballer will do anything to make it big. It’s his “way out,” even if it means spending an entire summer being ignored by men he wants to emulate. What can a Mexican boy do to get in the game?

It’s hard to ignore a story that starts like this: “When I was sold to the Li family, my mother let Mrs. Li take me only after she’d promised that I would be taught to read.” And there, “The Difficult Path,” begins a journey in which words save lives.

We all endure difficult times at some point. The difference between survival and failure is in the support you get, and in “The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn,” there are many in one young family’s existence, until help comes from beyond the grave.

Everyone, it seems, has that one favorite uncle who’s a total jokester. In “Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains,” Uncle Kenneth is doing what he does best: telling a tall tale for the nieces and nephews, with a twist that only Turtle Kid knows.

And what does it feel like when you’re the only one of you around? In “Main Street,” it’s bittersweet, especially for those you leave behind in order to fit in.

Next time your extended family or neighborhood gathers, give a listen. No doubt, there are a lot of tales being told around the tables; some are funny, some are sad, some were just made up, and some are about you. That’s what you get in “Flying Lessons & Other Stories.”

From ten different points of view, here are fictional tales of kids growing up with all sorts of issues that reflect a variety of cultures and communities. It’s been done on purpose: editor Ellen Oh is the cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, an organization that strives to offer books filled with characters that look like the kids who’ll read them. These quick-to-consume short stories are ones you can browse, and while nobody says you have to read them in order, one thing’s for sure: you’ll want to read them all.

This is a great book for preteens, although it will touch a teen, too. Grab it and share – because “Flying Lessons & Other Stories” is something you should be more than just hearing about.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is a Peacemaker book reviewer who is awaiting the spring thaw in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with her husband and two dogs.