Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.
The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.
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.
I bought the audiobook after seeing the movie in 2017 and wanted to listen to it now for Women’s History Month.
I am so torn about what to say. I think these stories are so important – the unsung heroes, especially women, who didn’t get the credit they deserved. The brains behind the achievements and discoveries much be known. Especially when it is centered around women in STEM.
However, listening to this book was a real struggle. I would tune out, or leave the room and let it run. Half way through I started skipping ahead so I could “skim” it. It was filled with too many facts. It was like listening to a text book. I especially would tune out when it explained anything about engineering, aerodynamics, mathematics, or computing. There were also so many facts about the history of segregation and the space race. I understand the importance of telling it, but the delivery – just rambling facts was so boring.
I often struggle with non-fiction books. I want to be shown facts, not told facts. In the end what I really wanted was the movie in novel form.
2 out of 5 Rockets.