Bullied as a child in her small Indiana town, Cecilia Rodriguez Aragon learned early on that staying quiet meant staying safe. The daughter of Chilean and Filipina immigrants, Aragon excelled in school, especially math class, but learned to keep her brilliance under wraps. She found her way to a career in computer science, but still struggled with crippling fear and anxiety. When a coworker's love for flying ignited her own, Aragon--to her own surprise--found herself spending weekends at airfields, learning to fly increasingly complex maneuvers and dreaming of buying her own airplane. Her memoir, Flying Free, chronicles her journey from INTF--her own "personality label" of Incompetent, Nerd, Terrified, Failure--to a strong, confident woman who became the first Latina to compete on the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team.
Aragon's crisp, straightforward narration mirrors the steps she had to take before, during and after every flight: plot a course, perform the necessary mechanical checks, load the plane, strap herself in, take off. Soon, readers are following Aragon not only to the airfields near her home in San Francisco, but up to Seattle and over to Oklahoma in pursuit of higher-level planes and more advanced instruction.
Today a professor of engineering and data science at the University of Washington, Aragon has used her flying experience to build confidence and overcome fear elsewhere in her life. Her memoir is a paean to flying, a testament to grit and hard work, and a real-life model for anyone longing to cast their fears aside and fly free. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams