Everyone knew Sally Ride. No one knew Sally Ride.
In the recent biography, Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr, we meet a woman, a scientist, a daughter, a sister, a pioneer, a wife, a hero. We meet someone who succeeded in slipping earth's surly bonds while maintaining the firm grounding that defined so much of who she was. We meet an enigma understood by few but beloved by many. We meet an introvert who held the world's attention with a quiet charisma and blazing intelligence. We meet a public woman who strongly guarded her privacy and her heart. We meet strength and integrity writ large in the gentle guise of a woman with a bright smile and eyes that looked with equal importance into the depths of the universe or into the eyes of a child whose dreams took shape beyond the stars. Seemingly made of equal parts earthy groundedness and star-filled wonder, she epitomized the best of both worlds and defined the word hero for me and countless others.
The book itself would, most likely, have made her uncomfortable in its honesty but proud of its content. Sherr considered herself a friend to Ride, and the respect and love inherent to that are evident throughout the book, but there was so much hidden in the depths of who Ride was that even those considered friends barely scratched the surface of this incredible woman. One of the depths that is given a lot of consideration in the book is the fact that Sally Ride, American hero and inspiration, was gay and in a nearly 30-year relationship that very few knew about until one line was printed in her obituary naming her partner. The author's journey to come to terms, herself, with this revelation about her friend works itself into many aspects of the book.
A simple look at the cover of the book reveals so much in the bright eyes and impish glee momentarily caught as we see a dream come true, the moment when the idea of dancing in the sky became a giddy and awe-inspiring reality. Growing up as she did during a time when the world told women exactly what they could and couldn't be, she quite simply said, "No." and did as she chose. That choice resounded through a generation and will continue to resound every time another little girl steps outside, looks up and says, "Yes, I can!". That, along with the place she holds in the hearts of those who knew and admired her, is her well-earned and well-deserved legacy...a legacy boldly written across the sky like a shooting star that burns bright, remains frustratingly unreachable but leaves in its wake a shining trail of stardust for others to follow.