Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fighter Pilot's Daughter by Mary Lawlor



FIGHTER PILOT'S DAUGHTER by Mary Lawlor, Memoir, 336 pp., $19.95 (paperback) $18.09 (Kindle)



Title: Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War
Author: Mary Lawlor
Publisher: Rowman and Littlefield
Pages: 336
Genre: Memoir
Format: Hardcover/Kindle

Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War tells
the story of Mary Lawlor’s dramatic, roving life as a warrior’s child. A
family biography and a young woman’s vision of the Cold War, Fighter Pilot’s Daughter narrates
the more than many transfers the family made from Miami to California
to Germany as the Cold War demanded. Each chapter describes the workings
of this traveling household in a different place and time. The book’s
climax takes us to Paris in May ’68, where Mary—until recently a dutiful
military daughter—has joined the legendary student demonstrations
against among other things, the Vietnam War. Meanwhile her father is
flying missions out of Saigon for that very same war. Though they are on
opposite sides of the political divide, a surprising reconciliation
comes years later.

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The pilot’s house where I grew up was mostly a
women’s world.  There were five of us.  We had the place to ourselves
most of the time.  My mother made the big decisions--where we went to
school, which bank to keep our money in.  She had to decide these things
often because we moved every couple of years.  The house is thus a figure
of speech, a way of thinking about a long series of small, cement dwellings we
occupied as one fictional home.
     It was my father, however,
who turned the wheel, his job that rotated us to so many different
places.  He was an aviator, first in the Marines, later in the Army.
When he came home from his extended absences--missions, they were called--the
rooms shrank around him.  There wasn’t enough air.  We didn’t breathe
as freely as we did when he was gone, not because he was mean or demanding but
because we worshipped him.  Like satellites my sisters and I orbited him
at a distance, waiting for the chance to come closer, to show him things we’d
made, accept gifts, hear his stories.  My mother wasn’t at the center of
things anymore.  She hovered, maneuvered, arranged, corrected.  She
was first lady, the dame in waiting.  He was the center point of our
circle, a flier, a winged sentry who spent most of his time far up over our
heads.  When he was home, the house was definitely his.
     These were the early years
of the Cold War.  It was a time of vivid fears, pictured nowadays in
photos of kids hunkered under their school desks.  My sisters and I did
that.  The phrase ‘air raid drill’ rang hard--the double-a sound a cold,
metallic twang, ending with ill.  It meant rehearsal for a time when you
might get burnt by the air you breathed. 
     Every day we heard
practice rounds of artillery fire and ordinance on the near horizon.  We
knew what all this training was for.  It was to keep the world from
ending.  Our father was one of many Dads who sweat at soldierly labor,
part of an arsenal kept at the ready to scare off nuclear annihilation of life
on earth.  When we lived on post, my sisters and I saw uniformed men
marching in straight lines everywhere.  This was readiness, the soldiers
rehearsing against Armageddon.  The rectangular buildings where the
commissary, the PX, the bowling alley and beauty shop were housed had fall out
shelters in the basements, marked with black and yellow wheels, the civil
defense insignia.  Our Dad would often leave home for several days on
maneuvers, readiness exercises in which he and other men played war games
designed to match the visions of big generals and political men.  Visions
of how a Russian air and ground attack would happen.  They had to be ready
for it.
     A clipped, nervous rhythm
kept time on military bases.  It was as if you needed to move efficiently
to keep up with things, to be ready yourself, even if you were just a
kid.  We were chased by the feeling that life as we knew it could change
in an hour.











Mary Lawlor 2

Mary Lawlor is author of Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War (Rowman & Littlefield paperback 2015); Public Native America: Tribal Self-Representation in Casinos, Museums and Powwows (Rutgers UP, 2006); and Recalling the Wild: Naturalism and the Closing of the American West (Rutgers UP, 2000). She lives in Allentown, PA and Gaucin, Spain.

Her latest book is the memoir, Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War.

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