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PRE-ORDER: A Pair of Wings: A Novel

PRE-ORDER: On Sale Date: August 20, 2024

A riveting, adventurous novel inspired by the life of pioneer aviatrix Bessie Coleman, a Black woman who learned to fly at the dawn of aviation, and found freedom in the air.

For fans of Hidden Figures, The Great Circle, and I Was Amelia Earhart, A Pair of Wings is an epic novel about pioneer aviatrix Bessie Coleman, whose story has waited 100 years to be told. A few years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, Bessie was working the Texas cotton fields with her family when an airplane flew right over their heads. It buzzed so low she thought she could catch it in her hands. Bessie wasn’t afraid. Without even thinking, she spread her arms out and pretended she was flying. She knew there was freedom in those wings.

The daughter of a woman born into slavery, Bessie answers the call of the great migration, moving to Chicago as a single woman. While working as a manicurist in the White Sox barbershop, she wins the backing of two wealthy, powerful Black men, Robert Abbott, the publisher of The Chicago Defender, and Jesse Binga, Chicago’s first Black banker. Abbott becomes her mentor and chronicles her adventures, while the good-looking gun-toting Binga becomes her lover. Her first love, though, remains the airplane.

But in 1920, no one in the U.S. will train a Black woman to fly, so 26- year-old Bessie learns to speak French and bets it all on an epic journey to Europe as she begins a quest to defy the odds and gravity itself. Two years ahead of Amelia Earhart, Bessie is molded by battle-hardened French and German combat pilots, who teach her death-defying stunts. Bessie’s signature majestic loops, spiky barrel rolls, and hairpin turns, just like her hardscrabble journey, are spellbinding.

While she finds there is no prejudice in the air, Bessie must wrestle with many challenges: She nearly dies in a plane crash, one of her brothers seems to be crumbling under the weight of Jim Crow, and as she grapples with tough truths about Binga, Bessie begins to wonder if the freedom she finds is the air means she must otherwise fly solo.

With tenderness and verve, Carole Hopson imagines the breathtaking moxie that led Bessie Coleman to strap up knee-high boots and don a self-designed flight suit to become “Queen Bess” of the sky.

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