Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians know 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. Originally mat...

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Title:Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
Author:Margot Lee Shetterly
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Edition Language:English

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race Reviews

  • AMEERA

    Wow , Wow , Wow , Wow , Wow , Wow Wow , Wow , Wow , Wow , Wow , Wow

    THIS BOOK HOLY SHIT * AMAZING *

  • Katie

    I want EVERYBODY to read this. It's a story you need to hear. It will move you, it will surprise you, it will frustrate you and it will inspire you. No matter your gender, ethnicity, race or creed, you need this in your life.

  • Amanda

    Hidden Figures tells the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who blazed the trail for others to follow in the fields of mathematics and engineering at NASA.

    NASA, originally known as NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) began hiring women during WWII as female computers. These women essentially did the work of mathematicians but were labeled as subprofessionals in order to be paid less. In 1943 there was a p

    Hidden Figures tells the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who blazed the trail for others to follow in the fields of mathematics and engineering at NASA.

    NASA, originally known as NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) began hiring women during WWII as female computers. These women essentially did the work of mathematicians but were labeled as subprofessionals in order to be paid less. In 1943 there was a push to hire qualified black women because the demand could not be satisfied with white employees only.

    I particularly enjoyed how this book focused on the individual stories of each woman. I was so inspired by the sacrifice, determination, and intelligence of these ladies. The book incorporates the history that coincides with the stories moving from WWII and aviation research to the Cold War and the Space Race. The book focuses a lot on the Civil Rights Movement and the push to end school segregation. At the onset of the story, the black mathematicians are forced to work on the west side of the Langley campus until the 60s when integration occurs. One quote from the Chicago Defender that stood out to me follows: "While we were forming mobs to drive Autherine Lucy (the black woman who integrated the University of Alabama in 1956) from the Alabama campus, the Russians were compelling ALL children to attend the best possible schools." It's disheartening to imagine all the brilliant minds that never realized their potentials because of factors like race, gender, and income.

    My favorite anecdote was when the astronauts didn't quite trust the calculations of the electric IBM computers. In one instance John Glenn requested that Katherine Johnson (referred to as "the girl" ) personally double check the numbers for the trajectories of the orbital mission.

    Great nonfiction read, particularly recommend for females interested in STEM.

  • Lauren Cecile

    The book was as amazing as the movie. I had occasion to meet the author who is the niece of one of these remarkable women. It is unbelievable that we did not know about the contributions of these women until now. This shows how history and historians are extremely selective and do not stray from the pre-established political narrative. I'm sure there are countless other untold stories about women and minorities. Thanks to Margot Shetterly for introducing us to these (s)heroes of rocket science(!

    The book was as amazing as the movie. I had occasion to meet the author who is the niece of one of these remarkable women. It is unbelievable that we did not know about the contributions of these women until now. This shows how history and historians are extremely selective and do not stray from the pre-established political narrative. I'm sure there are countless other untold stories about women and minorities. Thanks to Margot Shetterly for introducing us to these (s)heroes of rocket science(!) of all things!

  • Julie

    Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is a 2016 William Morrow publication.

    America is for Everybody!!

    It wouldn’t have mattered when or where I happened along this book, I would have loved it!!

    But, with so many core values at stake in our immediate future, with the contributions of the best and the brightest on the line, this story reminds us of why we need maths and science, and how much we can accomplish if we all work together as people, with a common goal in mind.

    The work of Dorothy Vau

    Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is a 2016 William Morrow publication.

    America is for Everybody!!

    It wouldn’t have mattered when or where I happened along this book, I would have loved it!!

    But, with so many core values at stake in our immediate future, with the contributions of the best and the brightest on the line, this story reminds us of why we need maths and science, and how much we can accomplish if we all work together as people, with a common goal in mind.

    The work of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, at a time when women and minorities were not treated equally, nor given the credit they so obviously deserved, is a testament to what can happen if you forge through barriers, focus on your goals, and meet challenges with determination, grace and dignity.

    The excitement of the space program and the rapid advances of the time jumped off the page and hammered home the powerful impact these ladies had. It is also frustrating that their contributions were buried for so long. The segregation and humiliations they endured, while common for the time period, is no less outrageous, and still raised my ire at the absurdity of it.

    But, ultimately, the author gives us a special insight into what inspired these exceptional women, highlighted their many talents, their personal convictions, and led us on an exciting journey that paved the way for so many of the wonderful achievements of our country.

    The book is meticulously researched, well written, and achieves its ultimate goal. Mathematics and science are cool, and not just for guys, which is a misconception we still fight off today. No matter how late in coming, the accolades these women are now receiving is sure to promote a vigorous interest in these fields as the become a role model for future generations.

    It is more important than ever that we fight for science, that we continue to promote education for all, and remember those who came before us, who paved the way and made sacrifices so we can enjoy the way of life we have now.

    This is a fascinating book, rich in details, both historically and technically, some of which sailed over my head a little, but that only encouraged me to learn more.

    I highly recommend this book to everyone, no matter what genre you typically prefer reading. This book is a learning experience and an extremely interesting peak at the 'behind the scenes' beginnings of the space program, proving that every person’s role and contribution is important and makes a difference. Best of all, it’s a true story!!

    I can’t wait to see the movie now. I’ve heard it was really good!

    5 stars!!

  • Kai

    I don't even read nonfiction if it doesn't involve making-of Harry Potter books (which I still consider fiction in a way). So this was a good change for once.

    I'm not sure when I first heard of th

    I don't even read nonfiction if it doesn't involve making-of Harry Potter books (which I still consider fiction in a way). So this was a good change for once.

    I'm not sure when I first heard of this story. I'm not even 100% sure if I discovered the book before I heard about the film adaption, but I think I did.

    All in all this book was highly informative, though I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was more interested in science, space and aerodynamics. My understanding for these topics is lacking, which is the reason why I often skimmed some overly technical paragraphs.

    However, the life stories this book depicts are awe inspiring and moving, and this is what I'm here for. Strong and educated women of every race and heritage, jumping over (metaphorical) fences, taking a stand, breaking down stereotypes, making a career, proving that they have the brains it takes to work in one of the most prestigious scientific facilities in the world (and everywhere else as well). All of that, while so many hindrances were put in their ways, because of their gender, because of their race. Because of prejudice, ignorance and hate.

    This book shows - and reminds us - that there are people who take opportunities and master them with grace, people who hold doors open for the less fortunate and give them a chance to shine, people who value bravery and kindess more than anything else.

    This is what made this book worth reading.

    I'm so excited for the film, I've been excited for months, and can't wait to finally see it. There's a high probability of goosebumps and tears.

  • Amanda Lichtenstein

    This was such an extraordinary, exhilarating and important story to tell, but the writing was so dry, repetitive and full of platitudes that it began to dull the edges of this sharp tale. I really hope that the author was able to get through some revisions to work out some of the weaknesses in the writing because the story is so important -- it's about African-American women in the South who, because of the war, are temporarily able to secure jobs as 'human computers' at NACA -- which later beco

    This was such an extraordinary, exhilarating and important story to tell, but the writing was so dry, repetitive and full of platitudes that it began to dull the edges of this sharp tale. I really hope that the author was able to get through some revisions to work out some of the weaknesses in the writing because the story is so important -- it's about African-American women in the South who, because of the war, are temporarily able to secure jobs as 'human computers' at NACA -- which later becomes NASA, despite living in a Jim Crow era of extreme racism and segregation. The convergence / overlap of the lives of these women with the collective dreams of the nation and its obsessive space race are fraught with contradiction and celebration. It's really exciting to see how the Langley Research Institute continues to grow and expand over the arch of the story, and to see how the laws transform during the course of these women's careers. Yet the tone is at times so flowery and glib that the women become caricatured heroes as opposed to complex women in extraordinary times. I wish the writing was more creative, narrative-driven and sensory to give us a real sense of who they really were as opposed to casting them as emblematic symbols of a people and a nation. I am actually excited in this case that there's a major motion picture b/c I think it'll bring the narrative structure into clearer relief -- the lives of the main characters -- Dorothy, Katherine and Mary -- are so intertwined and overlapping that it's hard to keep track of whose story is being told at any given moment. The author bounces around and, combined with the intensive technical language, whole passages are muddled with confusion. Still, it's a fascinating moment in US history and these women's stories are truly remarkable.

  • Amber

    Man I really really wanted to like this book. I enjoy nonfiction and I loved the subject matter the author went after. However, this was just so dry. It felt very clinical as opposed to experiencing life with these women. Also some of the facts that the author was trying to get across were so repeated their value lost meaning. Bummer because it could have been SOOO good.

  • Carmen

    CARMEN: *sighs*

    *drinks coffee*

    Okay, I've put off writing this long enough. Let's do this thing.

    - Feminism! Smash the patriarchy! Sisters are doin' it for themselves!

    - Break down those race barriers!

    I'm totally on board with this message.

    Even more on board with calling attention to something that most Americans are ignorant about - Women's rol

    CARMEN: *sighs*

    *drinks coffee*

    Okay, I've put off writing this long enough. Let's do this thing.

    - Feminism! Smash the patriarchy! Sisters are doin' it for themselves!

    - Break down those race barriers!

    I'm totally on board with this message.

    Even more on board with calling attention to something that most Americans are ignorant about - Women's roles and black people's roles in NASA during the Space Race and WWII. The simple fact that this news was shocking to a lot of people means this story is important and should be told. The fact that it was made into a movie is even better - because, let's face it, a lot of people don't read books.

    Black history in America (beyond going over the Civil War and slavery and MLK, Jr. ad nauseam) is, as Shetterly points out, hidden. Or perhaps hidden is too active of a word. Completely ignored and disregarded might be better. It's very important to have books like this.

    :

    But I'm here to review books. BOOKS. So I have to review this as a book, not as an ideal or a concept or an 'important work for society.' I mean, is this book important? Yes, it is important. Is it good that it was written? Yes, it is good that it was written and even better that Hollywood picked it up.

    Is it well-written? NO. No, it is not.

    I'm sorry to say this. I wanted to love it. But Shetterly is not a good writer.

    I mean, she's competent... The book isn't STUPID, and it isn't abysmal trash with bad grammar and poor spelling.

    But she is a poor writer for a plethora of reasons.

    1.) She is unable to distinguish characters from one another. I literally could not tell you the difference between Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary. What they did, what their roles were... it all blurred together due to Shetterly's inability to develop characters or personalities for any of them.

    2.) She often switches from person to person, and from time period to time period in the same chapter. This is confusing and annoying and just adds to the inability to differentiate the three women focused on here.

    3.) The book is almost mind-numbingly boring. The details (on math and science) are one thing - I can get through that - but overall, even when talking about racism or segregation, Shetterly is boring and not engaging. This is horrible - the subject material in this book is naturally interesting IMO. It should not have been such a struggle for Shetterly to make this book interesting. I often found myself wondering how she could make such an interesting topic so boring.

    4.) She is not a good writer. I was getting so frustrated with her terrible writing. Again, it was not any grammar, spelling or sentence problems. Instead, it is her schmaltzy, emotionally manipulative and bogged-down writing style which was grating my cheese.

    Let me give you some examples:

    Why would she...? Ugh. Seeing this in non-fiction is really jarring. For one thing, she was reporting on a conversation she was not present at. Secondly, she is hearing about it from someone who is relating something that happened nearly 60 years ago. Third, it's just bad writing. I mean, look at it. So bad. Why would you feel the need to put a sentence like this in your book?

    *Carmen massages her temples* Stop, just stop. Ugh, this writing is atrocious. For one thing,

    What the heck is Shetterly doing? Does she think this is cute? I just... can't with this. Secondly, why is Shetterly pushing this so hard? Glenn asked the men to check the numbers. The men asked Katherine because she was competent and smart. Shetterly shouldn't feel the need to play this up as if Glenn went to Katherine Johnson herself and humbly put his trust in her to double-check the numbers. He didn't. He gave the work to some men and they shunted it to her because she had skillz. That makes this EVEN MORE POWERFUL in the context of the book. Why try and manipulate the reader into having some feelings about 'strong, revered' white astronaut Glenn going hat-in-hand to a black woman computer for trusted essential information?

    What about this particularly egregious passage?

    WHY. WHY. Shetterly doesn't have to do this. She doesn't have to get all schmaltzy and whimsical when describing this. I'm reading this and looking like o.O what are you going on about, Shetterly?

    In short, Shetterly's writing style really grated on me. I thought it was terrible.

    Now, I really enjoyed the talk about race, segregation, and what was going on with how black Americans were treated during the '40s, '50s and '60s. It was (or should have been) a fascinating topic.

    The absolute best parts of the book were when Shetterly quoted other sources. Which is a very bad sign.

    Or

    Or

    True. And it is important.

    No, sorry. A badly written book is a badly written book.

    I give Shetterly points for working hard to research this book, get it published, and call attention to this important brushed-aside part of American history. That's why this isn't getting one star.

    But the writing is poor. Dull, meandering, sentimental, and muddy. A terrible way to write a non-fiction book IMO. I wonder what this book might have become in more capable hands. Not that we would ever know, because of course Shetterly was the sole cause of this coming to light (kudos to her), but in the hands of someone with more writing talent this could really shine.

    If you didn't bother to read the book, but instead watched the film.... I have to say you are not missing much. Rare words from this book-lover.

    Terrible.

    UPDATE: 11/24/2017

    Okay, I saw the movie. It was much better than the book. Excellent cast. Skip the book and see the movie. <--- Might be one of the very few times I say this.

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