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Flying Free: My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team

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The daughter of a Chilean father and a Filipina mother, Cecilia Rodriguez Aragon grew up as a shy, timid child in a small midwestern town during the 1960s. Targeted by school bullies and dismissed by many of her teachers, she worried that people would find out the truth: that she was INTF. Incompetent. Nerd. Terrified. Failure. This feeling stayed with her well into her tw The daughter of a Chilean father and a Filipina mother, Cecilia Rodriguez Aragon grew up as a shy, timid child in a small midwestern town during the 1960s. Targeted by school bullies and dismissed by many of her teachers, she worried that people would find out the truth: that she was INTF. Incompetent. Nerd. Terrified. Failure. This feeling stayed with her well into her twenties when she was told that girls can t do science or women just don t know how to handle machines. Yet in the span of just six years, Cecilia became the first Latina pilot to secure a place on the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team and earn the right to represent her country at the Olympics of aviation, the World Aerobatic Championships. How did she do it? Using mathematical techniques to overcome her fear, Cecilia performed at air shows in front of millions of people. She jumped out of airplanes and taught others how to fly. She learned how to fund-raise and earn money to compete at the world level. She worked as a test pilot and contributed to the design of experimental airplanes, crafting curves of metal and fabric that shaped air to lift inanimate objects high above the earth. And best of all, she surprised everyone by overcoming the prejudices people held about her because of her race and her gender. Flying Free is the story of how Cecilia Aragon broke free from expectations and rose above her own limits by combining math and logic with her passion for flying in unexpected ways. You don t have to be a math whiz or a science geek to learn from her story. You just have to want to soar.


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The daughter of a Chilean father and a Filipina mother, Cecilia Rodriguez Aragon grew up as a shy, timid child in a small midwestern town during the 1960s. Targeted by school bullies and dismissed by many of her teachers, she worried that people would find out the truth: that she was INTF. Incompetent. Nerd. Terrified. Failure. This feeling stayed with her well into her tw The daughter of a Chilean father and a Filipina mother, Cecilia Rodriguez Aragon grew up as a shy, timid child in a small midwestern town during the 1960s. Targeted by school bullies and dismissed by many of her teachers, she worried that people would find out the truth: that she was INTF. Incompetent. Nerd. Terrified. Failure. This feeling stayed with her well into her twenties when she was told that girls can t do science or women just don t know how to handle machines. Yet in the span of just six years, Cecilia became the first Latina pilot to secure a place on the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team and earn the right to represent her country at the Olympics of aviation, the World Aerobatic Championships. How did she do it? Using mathematical techniques to overcome her fear, Cecilia performed at air shows in front of millions of people. She jumped out of airplanes and taught others how to fly. She learned how to fund-raise and earn money to compete at the world level. She worked as a test pilot and contributed to the design of experimental airplanes, crafting curves of metal and fabric that shaped air to lift inanimate objects high above the earth. And best of all, she surprised everyone by overcoming the prejudices people held about her because of her race and her gender. Flying Free is the story of how Cecilia Aragon broke free from expectations and rose above her own limits by combining math and logic with her passion for flying in unexpected ways. You don t have to be a math whiz or a science geek to learn from her story. You just have to want to soar.

30 review for Flying Free: My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gizem-in-Wonderland

    "Air was the element I was born to live in. My wings trembled in the air currents like they'd grown out of the muscles in my back. This plane was my body. My body gleamed in the sun, a tiny bright being free of the confines of the world." This is the kind of stuff I crave for. An amazing female role model (A programmer, a nerdy computer scientist, an aerobatic pilot that won championships and university professor!) that I can look up to, the life of a successful aviatrix tingling my flying bones a "Air was the element I was born to live in. My wings trembled in the air currents like they'd grown out of the muscles in my back. This plane was my body. My body gleamed in the sun, a tiny bright being free of the confines of the world." This is the kind of stuff I crave for. An amazing female role model (A programmer, a nerdy computer scientist, an aerobatic pilot that won championships and university professor!) that I can look up to, the life of a successful aviatrix tingling my flying bones and helping me achieve my best, defying all odds in a man-oriented sector. "Don't ever get too good at a traditionally female task or they'll make you do it for the rest of your life," is one of the most relatable sentences of this amazing memoir. Flying is the passion that set free Cecilia Aragon and my heart filled with joy and excitement all through this book. I loved every single page, the rites of passages she accounted were excruciatingly hard and painful that lead to a life of fulfillment. Flying is cheating death every day and for women to go down that road, especially if they are grown in a traditional atmosphere is especially difficult. The environment and society prepare you for the roles you will lead and deviating from this road requires courage and determination to eliminate obstacles along the way. The price you pay is worth it, though and I agree with every word of her description of flying: "It was a three-dimensional dance in the sky, art plus mathematics, science plus sport, requiring all reflexes, rhythm, and timing." A must-read for aviation enthusiasts, female aviators and all women struggling to achieve the best of themselves. This book will definitely boost your spirits and as Aragon says: "Life is relentless, and if you allow yourself to be fully alive, you too will become a force of nature." "I've heard people describe how alcohol or heroin seems to fill the hole in their heart, how it wipes all the pain away. That's the effect flying had on me. For so long, I've been aching, lonely, missing something essential. Flitting from one failure to another. But that day, the hole in my heart was filled." (I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Have I ever flown a plane? Dreamt of doing it? Imagined reading a book that is largely about flying? No. But a good writer can draw you in and make you turn pages as fast as you can on any subject. And Cecilia Aragon is that type of writer. I loved this book -- for its core themes of shy, bullied child to international aerobatic star; fearful girl who's convinced she's a failure to confident woman pursing her dreams; and the yes, you-can-make-it-on-a-shoe-string, compete against the powerful, an Have I ever flown a plane? Dreamt of doing it? Imagined reading a book that is largely about flying? No. But a good writer can draw you in and make you turn pages as fast as you can on any subject. And Cecilia Aragon is that type of writer. I loved this book -- for its core themes of shy, bullied child to international aerobatic star; fearful girl who's convinced she's a failure to confident woman pursing her dreams; and the yes, you-can-make-it-on-a-shoe-string, compete against the powerful, and win. Aragon gives the reader reasons to cheer all the way along, and I enjoyed every detail about the flights (I had no idea how you much can smell, as well as see, from the air, and her thumbnail descriptions of California and the other parts of the world seen from the air were captivating). I was right with her as she learned to "dance in the air" -- and I never had to leave my couch! :) I even cried when I got to page 192. I won't say why. . . you can find out for yourself. This is a wonderful memoir, and I hope it helps many a girl and woman to reconsider opting for a safe and small life, when in their hearts lives a little pilot ready to suit up, take off, and soar.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Seth Turner

    Amazing and inspirational. Proof that we can all overcome fears with the right amount of grit, gumption, and resilience.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Toni A

    What an amazing, inspiring story! I was entranced from the first page, and couldn't put it down. Cecilia Aragon tells a wonderful tale of her journey toward courage and fulfillment via the incredible adventure of learning to fly--and so much more. I wish I had her kind of daring and courage, but know that her story will inspire me to my own version of taking risks and stretching. I loved reading about both her outer journey and her inner path, and found her memoir full of thrilling moments, char What an amazing, inspiring story! I was entranced from the first page, and couldn't put it down. Cecilia Aragon tells a wonderful tale of her journey toward courage and fulfillment via the incredible adventure of learning to fly--and so much more. I wish I had her kind of daring and courage, but know that her story will inspire me to my own version of taking risks and stretching. I loved reading about both her outer journey and her inner path, and found her memoir full of thrilling moments, characters, fears overcome, and triumphs. I learned so much about aviation, and found her writing accessible, engaging, and absorbing--I was with her every step along the way. I have already re-read this book, as I wanted to savor every word all over again.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kara Peters

    Wow! This was an amazing and inspiring story that made me want to go out and sign up for all those life challenges I've given up on. Cecilia tells a wonderful come-from-behind story that has me rooting from her from page one. The book is a page-turner and beautifully written, even lyrical at times. Even though I don't know anything about flying, the descriptions are all clear and understandable, never overly technical. I felt like I was sitting in the cockpit with her as she took on each new cha Wow! This was an amazing and inspiring story that made me want to go out and sign up for all those life challenges I've given up on. Cecilia tells a wonderful come-from-behind story that has me rooting from her from page one. The book is a page-turner and beautifully written, even lyrical at times. Even though I don't know anything about flying, the descriptions are all clear and understandable, never overly technical. I felt like I was sitting in the cockpit with her as she took on each new challenge. I loved this book, I couldn't put it down. Great read to inspire hope and courage during dark times. Highly recommended! I received an advance reader copy of this book for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    sbtbkb

    I really loved this book. It was such a fascinating tale of an extraordinary person. I did like how it focused on her specific journey in time. But the intro introduced so many other facets that I would love to read more from this author. I really related to her background and growing up shy and scared. Reading about someone who overcomes such obstacles and writes about them with such honesty and how they still affect her was so refreshing. This book definitely left me feeling inspired

  7. 4 out of 5

    Harriet Smith

    The subtitle of this book says it all - My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team. This empowering memoir shines a light on numerous obstacles that Cecelia Aragon faced throughout her life, and how she overcame them, and is still doing so today.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elise Thanasouras

    I am grateful to NetGalley that I was able read this memoir. Cecelia Aragon is a daughter of immigrants that grew up in Indiana. She was smart, enjoyed math, and was often bullied and felt out of place. Fast forward to her early adulthood, a fellow co-worker offered to take her up for a ride in his plane. It terrified her but then it changed her life. She oscillated back and forth between confidence and insecurity as she learned to fly and then mastered aerobatics of flight. A well told story th I am grateful to NetGalley that I was able read this memoir. Cecelia Aragon is a daughter of immigrants that grew up in Indiana. She was smart, enjoyed math, and was often bullied and felt out of place. Fast forward to her early adulthood, a fellow co-worker offered to take her up for a ride in his plane. It terrified her but then it changed her life. She oscillated back and forth between confidence and insecurity as she learned to fly and then mastered aerobatics of flight. A well told story that often uses math references to relate to life and flying. After reading this book you’ll feel that anything is possible. #netgalley #flyingfree

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ron Frampton

    A story of inspiration to become what you want to be.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jane Constantineau

    Read my review of this book on the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book... Read my review of this book on the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    As the first born American in a family of adult immigrants, so much of your story resonated with me, and I felt like you were writing much of my story. I knew literally nothing about smaller planes but found myself turning pages quickly to see how you readied your plane for the global competition!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Martha Crites

    The descriptions of flying are stunning and show just how much the author loves it. I had no idea how physically challenging being a stunt pilot could be. All this adds to the story of a woman overcoming her own fears and the culture that wasn’t quite ready for a woman,Latinx, engineer, pilot.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Dreams help get through life's hardest times. Believing in oneself when others don't is difficult, at best. Thriving and making it happen is a goal one has when one believes. One has a dream. Studying hard and getting through schools with determination helps. Focusing on what's important helps. This book is about all this and more. It's about an amazing woman who made it happen and surpassed her dreams. Fly free.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Potassium

    Probably a 4.5. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book. While Cecilia Aragon and I have had very different lives, I found her extraordinary story of going from being crippled by fear to becoming the first Latina pilot on the US aerobatic team so relatable. I loved watching Cecilia’s transformation as she discovered her love of flying and just went for it, challenging all the stories that her upbringing had taught her. I realized I have been struggling with some of the same stories — s Probably a 4.5. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book. While Cecilia Aragon and I have had very different lives, I found her extraordinary story of going from being crippled by fear to becoming the first Latina pilot on the US aerobatic team so relatable. I loved watching Cecilia’s transformation as she discovered her love of flying and just went for it, challenging all the stories that her upbringing had taught her. I realized I have been struggling with some of the same stories — such as the ones telling us that we should be small and selfless — and through cheering her on in this book, I also started cheering on myself. I also really enjoyed the diagrams that explained the various aerobatic flight patterns. They were fun to study but also they brought some of Cecilia’s points home for me and made her journey even more incredible: The plane has to go upside DOWN to complete these patterns. Obviously that is unsurprising, but it was still a nice addition for this visual learner.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pansy

    Wow! An exhilarating memoir about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. The author goes from being a timid, shy, bullied girl who’s good at math to competing as a pilot on the elite US Aerobatic Team.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Flo H

    Was a really good read! I used my free trial at audible to listen to the book! Millions of other books on there also! Here’s a link to get a free trial to audible! https://amzn.to/34Ess3c Was a really good read! I used my free trial at audible to listen to the book! Millions of other books on there also! Here’s a link to get a free trial to audible! https://amzn.to/34Ess3c

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Fun and inspiring book! I couldn't put it down and read way into the night about this amazing woman who overcame so many obstacles to triumph. It made me feel like I could do anything!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lori Kaufmann

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shari

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kurt A Aronow

  22. 4 out of 5

    dale e roberts

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Shacker

  24. 4 out of 5

    Keith Johnson

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robin Butler

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dilma

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Gorohoff

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Norris

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