RISING ABOVE IT: The Autobiography of Edna Gardner Whyte by Edna Gardner with Ann L. Cooper Whyte

RISING ABOVE IT: The Autobiography of Edna Gardner Whyte

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Delightfully frank and feisty memoirs from pioneering aviator Whyte, still flying at age 89, written with the assistance of Cooper, editor of 99 News, the publication of the International Organization of Women Pilots. Competitive to the bone and proud of it, Whyte is refreshingly unabashed about the ""fierce desire to be someone"" that fueled her decision to enter the largely male world of aviation in the early 1930's. Toughened by a troubled childhood of being farmed out to relatives after her widowed mother contracted TB, and ""addicted"" by an early jaunt in a rickety plane, Whyte dedicated her considerable energies to fighting the male ""fools"" who tried to stand in her way. Unable to fly for the military, she trained WW II pilots instead. Turned down by the airlines, she saw countless male students hired by major carriers. Even the more supportive men in her life, two husbands and several long-term lovers, were clearly secondary interests: ""I often said, 'I'll look at the man and I'll look at the airplane. I'll always choose the airplane.'"" Her true passion remains the dangerous and nerve-wracking sport of closed-course pylon racing: ""I loved racing I loved the surge of power, the fight to stay low, fast, close to the pylons, yanking and banking in the turbulent air. I love winning...."" This is flying for the ""fun"" of it, with a succession of lovingly recalled machines as compelling as any human characters. And, while the combative Whyte holds center stage, it's also a revealing look into the history of women in American aviation, including personal glimpses of such friends and rivals as Amelia Earhart and Jacqueline Cochran. Rough and charming, with neither the stylish prose of Beryl Markham nor the poetic sweep of Saint-ExupÉry, this is, instead, one of those rare and engaging autobiographies that capture not just a life, but a personality.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Orion/Crown