“She Persisted: Sally Ride,” Atia Abawi, 2021.
This book is part of a spinoff series from Chelsea Clinton’s “She Persisted” books, which also include a couple of pages on Ride. This more in-depth look at the life of the first American woman in space is designed to inspire young girls in their first grades in school (although kids of all genders will get a lot from reading it). But inspiration can be a tricky one. It can seem hokey if laid on too thick – and kids can be the largest cynics and see right through it. We’ve all read those books of seemingly superhuman people who triumph over adversity and figured, well, good for them, I could never do that. This book is subtly – almost subversively – different. Abawi tells you what Sally didn’t care about as a kid. We learn when she retreated from the world. When she tried something, was good at it, and yet changed paths unexpectedly, leaving other promising careers behind. Sally Ride here is contrary, and capricious. She’s human. And being human is shown as something good.
There are details here of Sally’s life that books for adults did not capture, and it’s clear that Abawi has done a fair deal of original research before winnowing it down to the key moments of a complex life. And to cap it off, at the end, there are suggestions for what the reader could do to follow in Sally’s footsteps. It reminds me of books I read as a kid, ones I remembered decades later for key sentences that held deep meaning for me. It’s a subtle, peaceful grenade of inspiration. Arm a child with it and stand back.