Picks and Pans Review: Proud to Be
Kelly Flinn—the Air Force pilot who received a general discharge in 1997 after an adulterous affair—never scored high on the national sympathy meter. Sure, she had her childhood dream dashed by a male-dominated military machine, but didn't her own recklessness have something to do with it? And even as her sex life spilled onto the nightly news, we just knew she would get a juicy book deal.
Well, here it is, Flinn's side of the story, in which she admits to "errors of judgment" but otherwise blames her ordeal on an insensitive Air Force hierarchy that showed "a callous disregard for the gray areas of real life." And, boy, are her areas gray. Flinn beat the odds to become the nation's first female B-52 pilot, only to risk it all by having an affair with a married man, then disobeying orders to end it. Her excuses for her "foolish" behavior—which led Flinn to resign—include suggestions that she was set up and that the Air Force "didn't teach me how to be a human being."
But a book's worth of such rationalizations fails to elicit much sympathy. Nor does Proud to Be present compelling evidence that Flinn was treated more harshly because of her gender. She seems more a victim of her own expectation that a system designed to produce hardened warriors should also be sensitive to life's gray areas. (Random House, $23)