In her first work of nonfiction for teens, Wein (The Last Jedi, 2017, etc.) details the complex and inspiring story of the only women combat pilots of World War II.
The “Great Patriotic War” was already under way by the time Marina Raskova—a famous, record-breaking pilot—convinced the Soviet Union to create women’s air regiments. Using photographs and primary source quotations, Wein brings these regiments of young women to life, tracing their harrowing experiences before, during, and after the war. A detailed overview of the Russian political and social landscape in the first half of the 20th century is interwoven throughout the narrative, contextualizing the Soviet Union’s involvement in World War II. Wein thoughtfully addresses her readers’ contemporary understanding of identity politics, acknowledging the homogeneity of her white (despite the ethnic diversity of the USSR), straight subjects and the ways that Soviet ideologies about gender align with or differ from the expectations of contemporary American readers. The Soviet women’s experiences are placed in context through comparisons with the roles of women pilots in the Royal Air Force and the United States military. Vivid descriptions of their personal sacrifices and the deep bonds they formed connect readers to the story. Careful footnotes provide information about unfamiliar vocabulary, and pagelong sidebars round out the history with tangential but fascinating facts.
For readers invested in military and/or feminist history, this important book soars. (source notes, bibliography) (History. 14-18)