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Hidden Figures
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Books of the Month 2018 > Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race- August 2018 BotM

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Nikki ~ The Nocturnal Bookworm (nyxreadsstuff) Discussion thread for 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 math teachers in the South's segregated public schools, these gifted professionals answered Uncle Sam's call during the labour shortages of World War II. With new jobs at the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia, they finally had a shot at jobs that would push their skills to the limits.

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 Societ 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 intellect to change their own lives, and their country's future.


Don't forget to use spoiler tags where appropriate :)


message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian (setaian) I don't really read non-fiction but I think I might give this one a go.


Leandra As a woman working in astrophysics, I've been wanting to read this since it came out. I bought my copy last night and can't wait to read start as soon as I finish one of the books I'm currently reading!


message 4: by Ian (new)

Ian (setaian) I've decided I won't be reviewing this book.
I'm not going to judge the books merits.
Instead I'm going to honour the African American women whose stories are told. Not sure how I will do that yet. Maybe I'll just list their names instead of writing a review.


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian (setaian) One of the challenges in writing a book that is non-linear is how do you organise it? If I knew the answer I wouldn't be a reader, I'd be a writer. I don't think Margot Lee Shetterly quite pulls it off but this is an important story...these women are in every way heroes of the civil rights movement. They are heroes of the feminist movement. And they are heroes for academia.

That's about all I will say on the book.


Elizabeth (persephone17) I found this book to be very well done. While some of the more scientific jargon went over my head, I was captured by Shetterly's ability to weave together the women's stories with the story of African Americans fighting for their due rights in the workplace throughout the 20th century, along with the respect they deserved. I enjoyed her writing and thought it for the most part captured a good balance between the side of the story that appealed to the reader's humanity and the factual side related to the science.
While it wasn't a bad thing, I was at first surprised that the last 1/3 or 1/4 focused on the space race - but then realized the movie only focused on that part of the women's stories. So if anyone first watched the movie - realize the book focuses more on the time when Langley was still the NACA and not yet a part of NASA.


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