Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Shetterly, Margot Lee (Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race)

As usual, the book is way better than the movie. Keep in mind that I took a strong dislike to the movie, and its overly dramatic tendencies, for the most part because I wanted the whole, true story. Not some Hollywood concoction that included black women telling off their white supervisors (unbelievable) and department heads knocking down bathroom signs (even more unbelievable).

So, yea, those things didn't happen, as I expected. However, the real story is even more compelling. Shetterly weaves a tale of the times with the day-to-day work these black women did at NACA/NASA. It is necessary for her to set up what it was like for black people to live in the late 50s and early 60s in Virginia. She provides all the reasons those Hollywood concoctions never happened, but also shows who and where people were fighting - on the national and state level, and also inside NACA/NASA (less so, and she provides reasons for that as well).

Even though I have a fairly decent understanding of the space race and the Civil Rights movement, this opened my eyes in other ways. I was surprised and intrigued by NACA/NASA efforts in hiring black "computers". The same goes for the paths these black women took to their jobs there - especially that they were almost all secondary school teachers, as that was, in fact, the only avenue for ultra-smart black women at the time. And, to be honest, I was surprised at Virginia. I'm not sure I understood how backwards its stance was as the years went on.

So, read this book, it's very, very worth it. Also, the book text itself is only 250 pages long, in case anyone is confused about this in their e-books. (Why oh why can't ebooks make the percentages and number of pages add up in the same way??)

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