Author Interview: Carole Hopson A PAIR OF WINGS

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I was thrilled to talk with pilot and author Carole Hopson about her gorgeous historical fiction A Pair of Wings about the life of pioneering Aviatrix, Bessie Coleman. Already an Oprah Daily best pick for July 2021, A Pair of Wings is so inspiring and so incredibly well done, it feels as if Carole was hand-picked by the universe to deliver Bessie’s story. As she shares in our interview, she provided the ‘glue’ to hold the biographical facts together with her fictional drawing of Bessie’s interpersonal relationships and emotions, making this feel like a deeply personal memoir. Her exhaustive research is evident throughout the book, to include walking the nine-mile route that Bessie traveled daily, on-foot, to and from her flight school in France to achieve her ambitious dream of flight.

I have been so inspired and fascinated reading about our many women aviation pioneers, but Bessie stands apart with her incredible determination and defiance of every social norm and expectation of her day, not only related to gender, but also race. Carole very skillfully and thoroughly places Bessie in the full context of her times—both within the dawn of aviation and the Great Migration of Blacks from the rural South to the North and West. The characters’ voices ring true and distinct, the descriptions are vivid, and the history cleverly woven through newspapers—"the social media of the time”—and Bessie’s active engagement in the world.

On top of all of the wonderful things I feel about this story, I have to gush about Carole and her vision for this book contributing to a larger mission. Carole is working to raise funds for her One Hundred Pairs of Wings initiative, which will launch this November with a goal of sending 100 Black women through flight training at the Lieutenant Colonel Luke Weathers Junior Flight Academy by the year 2035. This may sound like a small number, but when you consider that there are fewer than 150 licensed Black female pilots in the US, it feels at once achievable and ambitious. 20% of book sales go to support this project.

I share Carole’s big vision and very high hopes for this book. I think it has the potential to be wildly successful and that, unlike Carole, who, even as an aspiring Aviatrix didn’t learn about Bessie until she was in her thirties, every American will know who Bessie Coleman is as a result—that she will become both as iconic and as widely-taught as Amelia Earhart—and that especially our young Black women will be inspired to consider joining us in aviation.

“It begins with girls believing that they can fly.”

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