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John Fleischman: Black and White Airmen: Their True History (Houghton Mifflin)

Book Review

By Jane Durrell · October 17th, 2007 · Lit
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  JOHN FLEISCHMAN -- BLACK AND WHITE AIRMEN: THEIR TRUE HISTORY
JOHN FLEISCHMAN -- BLACK AND WHITE AIRMEN: THEIR TRUE HISTORY



This reviewer could never be mistaken for a member of grades 4-7, but I found Black and White Airmen: Their True Story, which was intended for that age group, a great read anyway.

John Fleischman's clear style never talks down to his audience, so there's no problem when the reader in question is older. The story tells of two Cincinnati men who were in the Air Force during World War II but never met in service because one was white and one was black. They had been in third grade together, they discovered years later, and had lives that paralleled in many ways but on opposite sides of the color line. John Leahr and Herb Heilbrun were in their late seventies when they met again and began to piece their experiences together, becoming fast friends in the process. The story brings World War II to life in unfamiliar ways and points out not only that some progress has been made in moving past racial discrimination but also how wrong-headed prejudice is. Both still live in Cincinnati and in recent years have presented a joint program to many groups, recounting their moving, obliquely shared history. Fleischman's book enlarges on 1920s and '30s life in Cincinnati for both black and white youngsters, and it gives a vivid picture of the sharp divisions of the segregated Army. This is a book for young people that has important things to say to any age group. And it says them in a manner that is lucid but never "juvenile." (Jane Durrell) Grade: A

 
 
 
 

 

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