Elizabeth Wein’s third novel, Black Dove, White Raven, continues in the same vein as her previous and highly acclaimed works: a historical fiction depicting characters of exceptional courage and resourcefulness that defy the accepted cultural norms within which they must exist. The book follows its young protagonists Teo and Em, from the American South, where stunt-pilot mothers, Delia and Rhoda, face a constant struggle against discrimination against both their sex and the colour of Delia’s skin.
Set mainly in Ethiopia on the brink of war in the 1930s, Black Dove, White Raven is told through Em and Teo’s imagined adventures, into which they write their alter-egos, as well as through their diary-like flight logs that they keep as they learn to pilot a small Italian biplane. The novel veers from tragedy, to pastoral idyll, to complete uncertainty following revelations about Teo’s father that tie Teo to Ethiopia in a way they could never have imagined.
Black Dove, White Raven is a refreshing addition to YA, exploring Em and Teo’s coming-of-age against a very different backdrop to what readers may be used to, but still dealing with many pertinent and topical issues. A must-read for fans of historical fiction, in particular.