Unlearning to Fly


Unlearning to Fly

Jennifer Brice

224 pages


September 2010


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eBook (PDF)
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September 2007


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About the Book

Unlearning to Fly is the memoir of a bookworm growing up in Alaska—among people whose resilience, restlessness, and energy find their highest expression in winter ascents up Mount McKinley or first descents down wild rivers. These are the flying stories of a fearful pilot who admires but does not emulate the more daring exploits of her father and friends.
The accounts of Jennifer Brice—at times poignant, funny, and downright nerve-racking—are engaging recollections of deadly, near-deadly, and occasionally comic encounters between human nature and Nature writ large. The unlikely romance between her parents, the Good Friday earthquake, the Alaska oil boom, a stint as a newspaper reporter, and the trials of a student pilot form engaging chapters in Brice’s remarkable life. These are the stories in which the physics and metaphors of flight—center of gravity, angle of attack, wake turbulence—illuminate Brice’s remarkable life story, recounted in prose that takes wing.

Author Bio

Jennifer Brice is an associate professor of English at Colgate University and the author of The Last Settlers. Her work has appeared in journals such as the Gettysburg Review, Manoa, and River Teeth.


Unlearning to Fly, a memoir in essays, doesn’t order Brice’s memories so much as allow forces of wind and weather to reveal them. . . . The reader sees in Brice’s stories her family’s attempts at an ordinary life in terrain that would just as soon ‘buck us off its back.’”—Marjorie Gellhorn Sa’adah, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“There is a refreshing humility implicit in the way Brice has constructed her memoir; it’s a structure that acknowledges that the overall sweep of her life is not unusual . . . but that its particulars are distinctive enough to be of interest to others. And the particulars of Brice’s life are riveting.”—Jenny Shank, NewWest.net

“Like a pilot photographing terrain for a map, [Brice] captures her family . . . and friends in a broad and clear vision. . . . Indeed, every person who graces the pages of her narrative is writ generously, fairly and kindly, with a fascination that rekindles our own sense of wonder at the lives we think we know most intimately—those of our parents, close friends, co-workers, but also the collective lives of our homes and our environment.”—Nina Murray, Lincoln Journal Star

"Unlearning to Fly made me think more deeply about the skills I have learned and unlearned, the stories by which my life is patched together and launched into the world."—Eric Heyne, Western American Literature

Unlearning to Fly is taut and well-paced, engaging and stunningly visual, original and wise. Alaska is still the frontier to many readers, and Brice unpacks some of our myths about Alaska with witty, down-to-earth candor. How many books have you read in recent years that were written by female pilots? Who are so blessedly brainy? This is a voice and a story we have not heard before.”—Natalia Rachel Singer, author of Scraping By in the Big Eighties and the editor of Living North Country

“There is a rigorous mind and a humane spirit behind these essays. Ms. Brice has a way of dignifying not only her own life but also the lives of other people, elevating even the most ordinary life and making it worthy of our attention. Readers will no doubt cherish this writer’s adventures in an exciting place, but I think they will appreciate even more the collection’s beautiful evocation of what is simultaneously most ordinary, and most thrilling, in human experience—our inevitable relationship to family, place, and self.”—Carrie Brown, author of Rose’s Garden, Confinement, and The Rope Walk

“The book will appeal to readers interested in family narrative, curious about life in Fairbanks during the last half-century, and intrigued by the risks and attractions of northern flying.”—Alaska History

Table of Contents

1. At the Airport: A Romance
2. Lullaby for Lloyd
3. Wild Music: Reflections on Big Oil and Innocence
4. Three Paragraphs
5. Grease Monkey
6. My Mother’s Body
7. The Metaphysics of Being Stuck
8. Angle of Attack
9. Blue Storm
10. Unlearning to Fly

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