Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review- Hidden Figures

Today I'm reviewing Margot Lee Shatterly's book Hidden Figures.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as "human computers" used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space.Among these problem solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South's segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America's aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly these overlooked math whizzes had shots at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam's call, moving to Hampton, Virginia, and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.
Even as Virginia's Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley's all-black West Computing group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War and complete domination of the heavens.
Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the space race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA's greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellects to change their own lives - and their country's future.
Going into reading this book I expected it to be a historical novel. Emphasis on novel. But it wasn't simply a novel. I would say biography. It was meticulously researched and with the historical and scientific aspects of it the book was not the easy read I expected. Did that turn me off from it though? Not at all. It made me love it all the more. After adjusting myself to the book I was sucked right in to the lives and times of these women. Mathematics, physics, civl rights and history were just a few of the subjects I learned. I also learned about where hard work, dedication, gumption and spirit can get you in a world that is continually blocking your progress. I found the story of Mary Jackson petitioning the school to let her attend the night classes so she could become an engineer particularly inspiring. It is obvious that the author did a lot of research for this book and I commend her for it. 
Overall, one of the most lasting impressions this book gave me was how hard these women were willing to work for what they wanted and highly education was valued amongst them. These are two things that sadly I do not see as much in this present day. 
A little note on the movie. I enjoyed it a lot, just as much as the book to be honest. It mainly focuses on what happens with the space program and less emphasis is put on what happens before that so you don't get the back story the book provides. 
My thoughts... read the book and watch the movie!

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  1. Glad to hear the movie and book are both worth my attention. I was curious about the film when it came out.

  2. Now I really can't wait to watch the movie and read the book!!!


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