‘Flying with Dad:’ writer honors fathers’ legacy

Flying with Dad was named a finalist for American Book Fests Best Book Awards.

“Flying with Dad” was named a finalist for American Book Fest’s “Best Book Awards”.

Allegheny College hosted Yvonne Caputo on Tuesday, Sept. 28 for a presentation on her first book “Flying with Dad, which was published in June 2020.

In the book, she details not only her father’s time serving in the Air Force during WWII, but also how their relationship was strengthened once he was finally able to open up to her about his experience.

Allegheny is a special place to Caputo. Her father, Michael Caputo, spent a semester here and it is where he met Yvonne’s mother. This connection is what brought her to campus for her presentation.

“She actually reached out directly to conferences and events,” said Alexis Hart, associate professor of English and director of writing. “Lynn McManness-Harlan knows that I am a veteran myself and the advisor for the Allegheny Veterans Services club so she forwarded Yvonne’s cold call to me and then I forwarded it to Maureen who is the club president. I thought it would be a great thing for the club to sponsor.”

Although Caputo’s presentation was very well received, her audience was much smaller than anticipated.

“I thought it was great,” Hart said. “But I was really disappointed that there weren’t more people there to see it because I thought it was really effective in a couple ways. From my director of writing and FS program hat, I thought Yvonne did a really excellent job of demonstrating how to do extemporaneous speaking effectively. Her slides were designed well, she had good organization and she did a really great job of speaking just from some notes.”

Caputo echoed Hart’s sentiment that she was disappointed in the turn out but was pleased to share her story with those who listened.

“Flying with Dad” includes stories about the unique way her father got started with the Air Force and many more stories about his experiences while serving in WWII. These stories include her father flying a plane that he had partially built himself as well as piloting another plane called “the flying coffin,” in which he faced such dangerous conditions that he wet himself.

The book’s finished product is a far cry from what it started as, though.

Michael Caputo photographed at Allegheny College in 1949.

“I really appreciated her discussion of the multiple drafts and the process she went through to get the book to publication,” Hart said. “It went through four different drafts while she got feedback along the way. I also appreciated her disclosure that it wasn’t until she actually put herself into the story that it really worked.”

This is Caputo’s first published book and admittedly she needed a lot of help to do it.

“I knew I needed an excellent cover, excellent proofreading, and excellent structure but I didn’t know what I was doing so I reached out to professionals,” Caputo said.

After finding the proper help, things still did not get easier right away.

“She basically threw it in the blender and gave it back to me saying it needed to be part memoir and part history which would require a full rewrite,” Caputo said. “It turned the book up on its heels but made it very rich and more presentable to the reader.”

The key component for Caputo was interjecting herself into the story. Initially, her father’s story is all she wanted to tell. Upon realizing that the motive for her writing had everything to do with her relationship to him, everything came together.

Michael Caputo is photographed while working.

“From putting my veteran hat on and my child of service members hat on, I enjoyed her discussion about how she knew her dad had served but was from a generation that wasn’t very open or vocal about it,” Hart said. “The process of getting those stories from him really put her into the story and developed their relationship and she got to know her dad in a way that she hadn’t. That intergenerational aspect was really powerful and at the end she said to the two students who happened to be there to be curious and ask questions. When folks in your family start to say something, be curious about it and let them open up because what you’ll find is really more in-depth than what you expected.”

Through her presentation, Caputo effectively expressed her connection to her book with those in attendance.

“I can tell she has a very deep, emotional connection with this work and students would benefit from hearing her speak about it,” Allegheny Veterans Services President Maureen Bricker, ’23 said.

While attendees received a moving presentation, Caputo was the breadwinner in terms of what this book has given her.

“Growing up we certainly talked but I would not say that we were close,” Caputo said. “This book has given me gifts beyond just the writing of it. I received the dad I always wanted and he got the daughter he didn’t know he had.”

“Flying with Dad” was named a finalist for the American Book Fest’s “Best Book Award.”  She is now currently working on a sequel to her first book as well.

Yvonne Caputo smiles as she signs a copy of her book.