cover image American Ace

American Ace

Marilyn Nelson. Dial, $17.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3305-3

Sixteen-year-old Connor Bianchini’s father inherited a letter from his deceased Italian-American mother revealing a startling truth: Connor’s grandfather was actually a WWII pilot named Ace. Connor’s investigation of his unknown relative leads to another revelation—Ace was African-American and probably one of the Tuskegee Airmen. As the family grapples with this news and Connor’s father’s recovery from a stroke, Connor writes his history honors thesis on the Airmen to better understand his heritage. In an author’s note, Nelson (How I Discovered Poetry) emphasizes her desire to write about the Airmen from the perspective of someone new to their story. However, the single-page poems only provide glimpses into Connor’s personality, suggesting a certain detachment from her narrator. Nelson uses Connor’s thesis to convey swathes of historical information (and photographs) in a condensed and somewhat forced way. Even so, Nelson’s powerful command of language is inarguable: “I feel like there’s a blackness beyond skin,” Connor reflects. “A blackness that has more to do with how/ you see than how you’re seen. That craves justice/ equally for oneself and for others.” Ages 12–up. Agent: Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency. (Jan.)