In the earliest days of commercial air travel, cabin attendants were exclusively male, but by the 1950s, growing competition among carriers changed that: “Each airline tried to convince customers that it had the highest level of luxury and service, and the women who served a predominantly male clientele became a particular selling point,” Cooke writes. Pan Am — at the time, the only American airline to fly exclusively international routes — had a particular reputation for sophistication to maintain. “We must add to [our excellence] ‘a new dimension’ — that is, emphasis on what pleases people. And I know of nothing that pleases people more,” chief executive Najeeb Halaby would later explain, “than female people.”
I was on The Takeaway today sharing my summer reading recommendations with host Tanzina Vega. My picks: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, There There by Tommy Orange, Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes, Banthology, edited by Sarah Cleave, Air Traffic by Gregory Pardlo, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. Listen here for more about what makes these books so great.
This story has been in the making for quite a while.
In 2011, I first got curious about Korean writing in translation; this past fall, thanks to a generous grant from the International Center for Journalists, I was able to follow the story to Seoul and spend two weeks talking to writers, translators, publishers, scholars, and book-lovers.
I’m so happy the resulting piece found a home on The New Yorker’s site.
Some snapshots from my end-of-the-year vacation earlier this month.