Flying Lessons and Other Stories
edited by Ellen Oh
January 3, 2017
ISBN: 9781524721138

Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh is adept at tugging each and every heart string. This is a lovely audiobook that will capture the imagination of a wide demographic of young adults. From urban bildungsromans to rollicking adventure yarns, each story is imbued with a strong thematic core of resilience and empathy for others.

The stories encompass a broad range of cultural experiences. For example, in Walter Dean Myers’ short story, a young man yearns to prove himself on the basketball court while struggling to break down expectations of masculinity amongst peers. In another story, a young girl copes with unfamiliar feelings when a new student arrives at school, examining loneliness and finding the courage to be herself, through a series of humorous inner monologues. In Grace Lin’s contribution, a young Chinese girl is arranged to be married to a stranger, but is kidnapped by pirates.

The performance component of this audio book are stellar as well. The readers are an eclectic congregation of talent, whose readings are sincere, with appropriate and well-executed inflections. For example, in one story, the reader speaks in tones of the detached enthusiasm of an angst-ridden teenager, which is no easy tone to capture, but achieved singularly here.

These are stories that teens may identify with easily, with themes such as lifelong love of reading, empowerment of women and girls, and determination to overcome obstacles. The subject matter is empathetic and should appeal to a wide teenage audience.

As a whole, the stories complement one another masterfully. They’re well curated and represent a wide spectrum of voices, including voices that historically reside in the margins of the literary discourse like Asian-American and LGBTQ perspectives. Racial diversity is at the forefront in this collection. The atmosphere and tone range from feisty and humorous, to forlorn and somber, shifting seamlessly to mesh as a whole with remarkable narrative dexterity.

All in all, it’s a charming audiobook that will bring much joy and newly-acquired insights to teens willing to lend an ear.

Review by Tommy Vinh Bui, MLIS
Los Angeles Public Library

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