Jane Mendelsohn Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jane Mendelsohn I Was Amelia Earhart

Born in 1965, Mendelsohn is an American novelist and poet.

I Was Amelia Earhart (1996) is Mendelsohn's idea of what might have happened to famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, after their disappearance in July of 1937. Mendelsohn traces the pair's last day before their doomed transatlantic flight, and then picks up where the facts leave off, drawing a fantasy of what might have happened if Earhart's Lockheed Electra had managed to land on a deserted island when the pilot and her navigator lost their way. Critics see I Was Amelia Earhart as a story about freedom, escape, and transformation. Mendelsohn began her career as a poet, and reviewers find a lyrical quality to her writing. Most critics also discuss the blending of reality and fantasy in the novel, finding the result dreamlike. Some reviewers, however, are uncomfortable with Mendelsohn's blurring of the lines between reality and fiction, finding inconsistencies between Mendelsohn's characterization of Earhart and the real woman. Much of the credit for the book's popular success is attributed to national radio personality Don Imus, whose enthusiastic on-air praise after reading it prompted a sellout of the first 30,000 copies and a subsequent second printing of 250,000 more.