THE FLIGHT OF JESSE LEROY BROWN by Theodore Taylor

THE FLIGHT OF JESSE LEROY BROWN

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A mediocre, clichÇ-riddled tale of America’s first black naval aviator, by the author of To Kill the Leopard (1993) and numerous other works. Taylor starts his tale with the moment when Brown was shot down behind enemy lines at the onset of the Korean war. From there he jumps back to Brown’s childhood in a dirt-poor Mississippi farm town, then forward again to Brown’s college career and military training. Taylor has a potentially powerful story of one man’s striving against both institutional and individual racism in the American military, but his disjointed back-and-forth narrative is made worse by the fact that the author continually reads into Brown’s emotions to describe what his feelings were, say, regarding racial slurs and slights, while providing little basis for his analysis. Further, while Taylor finds his stride in describing the military side of his subject’s life—particularly his initial attempt at learning to fly and his battle exploits—the account of his civilian life falls flat. Brown’s own letters, to his wife and parents and former teachers, interspersed throughout the book, are far livelier than Taylor’s writing; for instance, he describes training and his fear of failure. Finally, Taylor relies on the most stereotypical descriptions possible; in writing of Brown’s first experiences among airplanes, a dirt runway was, he writes, “his path to the sky.” While Brown’s story is an important one, Taylor imbues it with the charm and cadences of a volume for young adults—hardly a fitting tribute to Brown, who was a subject of one of President Reagan’s inspirational stories of the American dream. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-380-97689-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998