Flying Lessons and Other Stories
edited by Ellen Oh
read in April 2017
Flying Lessons and Other Stories is probably the first anthology I have ever read. As expected, I wanted more from each story, but I enjoyed them all nonetheless! This anthology features diverse stories written by diverse authors and I plan to read more books by them. It definitely focusses on diversity of ethnicity and race, which is great. But diversity also means LGBTQIAP+, mental health… representation and there wasn’t enough of that.
I absolutely love how all these stories were heart-warming and positive. The experiences of a child of colour are probably different from those of white children, but that doesn’t mean all these stories have to deal with racism and bullying. So make sure to get this anthology in the hands children!
I’m going to discuss each story separately. I really liked the writing styles and how distinct they all were! Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of middle grade novels because the characters sound juvenile, but that wasn’t the case in Flying Lessons and Other Stories! The writing was understandable for children, yet enjoyable for adults as well.
1. How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium by Matt de la Peña
The main character in this story is Mexican American. The writing style was very unusual: 2nd person perspective and mostly future tense. But it totally worked and I was sad when it ended so soon!
2. The Difficult Path by Grace Lin
The Difficult Path is probably the one that made me want more the most. I’d definitely read a full length fantasy or historical fiction novel by this author. It seems to take place in Asia, though I don’t remember whether that was exactly specified. Perhaps it took place in Taiwan, where the author’s parents are from.
3. Sol Painting, Inc. by Meg Medina
This short story features Latinx representation. was a bit disappointed because I thought there was a mystery element going on – I had the feeling as if the brother didn’t go to that school, because of the way he behaved – but that wasn’t the case.
4. Secret Samantha by Tim Federle
Secret Samantha was one of my favourite short stories!
5. The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn by Kelly J. Baptist
I also very much enjoyed this one, but it was too short!
6. Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains by Tim Tingle
It’s an absolute shame that this was probably the first fiction story I’ve read featuring Native Americans (Choctaw, to be more specific). Therefore, I really wanted to love it, but I couldn’t follow the story. Because a tale was told by a family member, it was mostly tell instead of show. I also had a hard time remaining concentrated during the action-packed scenes.
Having said that, as soon as I finished Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains, I did some research to find out more about Choctaw. So the author definitely succeeded in motivating people to read more stories about Indigenous people.
7. Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson
Main Street is about a girl who’s mother passed away from cancer and who’s best friend is black. Even though I thought it was too short, I really liked some of the things that were mentioned (e.g. about white people touching a black woman’s hair and how that’s not okay), so I’m very interested to read more by this author. At first, I thought it was odd to have a white characters discuss racism, but somehow, it worked just fine.
8. Flying Lessons by Soman Chainani
Even though I didn’t think Flying Lessons was the best short story in this anthology, it certainly is the one I remember the most. So maybe I did love it more than I’d thought. It features Indian representation (and maybe queer representation?). Even at 22 years old, I related to the protagonist. I’m as afraid as him to make friends. I had tears in my eyes.
But I had some problems with the language that was used. Some if it seemed iffy:
- “It’s like a chromosome of fun I didn’t get”. I instantly thought of Down syndrome when I read this description, so I really think the author could’ve used a better way to express that the protagonist doesn’t have fun often.
- “g*psy bangles” I’m absolutely not certain whether this is offensive, but I do know that g*psy is considered a slur. I don’t know whether it’s harmful in this context, but I wanted to warn you nonetheless.
9. Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents by Kwame Alexander
I really liked the way this was written, but there was a bit of blackmailing going on and I didn’t like that. Hopefully, that part of the story wasn’t real, as the protagonist said he took some liberties with the truth.
10. Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push by Walter Dean Myers
This story features a disabled character. It was very short! I don’t know whether it was because of the writing or the pacing, but I sometimes struggled with knowing what was going on.
Conclusion: Flying Lessons and Other Stories is an anthology filled with diverse short stories. It has given me hope that I shouldn’t give up on middle grade novels, as I absolutely loved the writing style in this one. I plan on re-reading this in the future, as I honestly have already forgotten what most stories were about (as you can tell by my “reviews”). But I definitely want to read full-length novels by most of the featured authors!