Flying Lessons & Other Stories
What do you think of when you hear the name Walter Dean Myers? For me, I think of an author who broke tremendous barriers in the world of children and young adult literature, specifically concerning uncomfortable topics about race. In seventh grade, my English class was assigned to read MONSTER, a book following an African American teenager who is put into the criminal justice system. I’ll be honest, before reading that book, I wasn’t truly aware of the unfairness and inequality minorities faced within the law, let alone misrepresentation they face almost everywhere, including literature.
However, Walter Dean Myers wrote many pieces about it, including “Where Are The People of Color in Children’s Books?" which inspired the founding of We Need Diverse Books, cofounded by Ellen Oh. Unfortunately, Walter Dean Myers has since passed away, but his legacy lives on in FLYING LESSONS & OTHERS STORIES, a collection of short stories featuring characters of color.
"I’ll definitely be coming back to FLYING LESSONS in years to come, and I recommend it to everyone, no matter what age."
I consider myself a pretty well-read person. I know about a lot of books, and throughout my seventeen years of experience, I’ve read a lot of books. But this book pointed out to me that almost every book I’ve read features a Caucasian main character. In fact, I’d never read a book featuring an Indian character until I read “Flying Lessons” by Soman Chainani, one of my favorite stories from this book. Another one of my favorites was “Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents” by Kwame Alexander, which was told in verse.
Even though the main reason this book was published was to address the lack of characters of color in Children’s Literature, it also addressed so many other things that aren’t seen in a lot of Children’s Literature. For instance, take “Secret Samantha” by Tim Federle, about Samantha, who is discovering how she fits in with the stereotypical expectations of being a girl. Walter Dean Myers’s story, “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push,” features a boy who uses a wheelchair after an accident, and his path to access sports. This story was especially a hit for me, since I use a wheelchair, too.
With all short story collections, there’s always going to be stories you do and don’t like. For me, I found myself enjoying most of them. Nonetheless, I found with each story, there were lessons to be learned. I think people are learning them too, because every copy of this book is rented out within sixty miles of me. I’ll definitely be coming back to FLYING LESSONS in years to come, and I recommend it to everyone, no matter what age.
Reviewed by Reanna H., Teen Board Member on March 20, 2017