Susan Tate Ankeny, daughter of a WWII bombardier and great-granddaughter of Oregon Pioneers, brings to light the life of Hazel Ying Lee (born in Portland in 1912), the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, join the WASPs, and fly for the United States military amid widespread anti-Asian sentiment and policies. Her singular story of patriotism, barrier breaking, and fearless sacrifice is told for the first time in full for readers of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown and all Asian American, women’s and WWII history books. In 1932, Hazel Ying Lee, a nineteen-year-old American daughter of Chinese immigrants, sat in on a friend’s flight lesson. It changed her life. In less than a year, a girl with a wicked sense of humor, a newfound love of flying, and a tough can-do attitude earned her pilot’s license and headed for China to help against invading Japanese forces. In time, Hazel would become the first Asian American to fly with the Women Airforce Service Pilots. As thrilling as it may have been, it wasn’t easy. In America, Hazel felt the oppression and discrimination of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In China’s field of male-dominated aviation she was dismissed for being a woman, and for being an American. But in service to her country, Hazel refused to be limited by gender, race, and impossible dreams. Frustrated but undeterred she forged ahead, married Clifford Louie, a devoted and unconventional husband who cheered his wife on, and gave her all for the cause achieving more in her short remarkable life than even she imagined possible. American Flygirl is the untold account of a spirited fighter and an indomitable hidden figure in American history. She broke every common belief about women. She challenged every social restriction to endure and to succeed. And against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Hazel Ying Lee reached for the skies and made her mark as a universal and unsung hero whose time has come. “The Allied victory over fascism in World War II hinged on the courageous efforts of countless hidden heroes….The inspiring story of a trailblazer twice over within the gallant WASP ranks: Hazel Ying Lee, the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, and one of only two Asian Americans to earn her silver wings as a WASP. In Ankeny’s skilled hands, Lee’s story soars through an unforgettable flight of wartime courage, triumph, and tragedy.” —Gregg Jones, Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of Most Honorable Son: A Forgotten Hero’s Fight Against Fascism and Hate During World War II “Helluva story! Parachuting out of a plane, crash-landing in a field, or writing lipstick messages on a fuselage, Hazel Ying Lee… is fearless, witty—and patriotic…. In Ankeny’s fast-paced and engaging biography, Lee is at the controls, flying over the clouds of bias and sexism to serve her country. This is a story as dynamic as the banking biplanes and pursuit fighters flown by this long-overlooked war hero.” —Christopher C. Gorham, author of The Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern America “Fearless and confident, Hazel Ying Lee was part of a pioneering generation of women who fell in love with flying. . . . Ankeny’s book brings to life Hazel and her WASP sisters for new generations.” —Nancy Ng Tam, PhD., Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Susan Tate Ankeny is the author of nonfiction WWII history books including American Flygirl and The Girl and the Bombardier. A former educator, she is a member of the Oregon 8th Air Force Historical Society and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés, which finds and memorializes World War II crash sites in France. The daughter of a WWII bombardier and great-granddaughter of Oregon pioneers, she lives in the Pacific Northwest and can be found online at

July 18, 2024


06:30 PM - 07:30 PM


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