Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly – Review #5

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

I thought this book would be a great way to learn more about Black History and what this month represents. Black History month represents what this book explains and is written about, it goes into the goods and bads of life then and the hardships and how people got through it all to teach the ignorant.

This book began with an introduction to the author and why she wanted to write this book, this inspiring story of actual happenings. She explains how her father worked at NACA (Nation Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) much before NASA was even thought up and the history of the whole department and it’s people and workers and it’s triumphs and failures. Margot Lee Shetterly explains life during the time her father worked there and the time after. She goes deeply into the history of the women mainly in this story, not just white women, but the black women. How the desperation for women in the field of mathematics took hold in the 1940’s because the men were at war in Europe, women needed to help not only with the factories but also with the higher held job most women were never considered for before. The idea of equality throughout this book is ever prominent from the beginning with people like Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson. We follow these women through not only their occupational lives, but their private ones, following success, love, and progress along with failures, losses, and setbacks. The setting is from the beginning of the second world war all the way to the end of the space race with the national accomplishment of getting a man on the moon and how these women held some of the biggest roles possible in achieving it.

The message behind this novel is ever present, and will ever be present though our lives, such as today with equality being set back with Trans kid’s rights in school. This book tells not only of women working towards a goal to beat out Russia to Space and to defeat Germany in aeronautics but also defeating the prejudice against black men and women. This book is an inspiration and teaches so much about the civil rights movement during the 1960’s and the leading up to the movement with protests, sit-ins and other forms of peaceful rebellion. We go in depth into the Jim Crow laws that lead the land in the south, and how states such as Virginia kept to their sorrowful ways through neglect of the national laws as well as finding specific loopholes.

This book kept me interested from the beginning, I am not a usual fan of non-fiction works, but this takes the cake for some of the most interesting I have read. Shetterly has some way of changing what would usually seem average and boring into something interesting and something I would want to continue. She goes into the lives of the women before their job upgrades in the 1940’s and I could not stop reading: she gives not stagnant descriptions, but descriptions to keep you intrigued and able to picture what was happening and the area it was happening in.

Another great thing about this book is that it spans over such a long period of time, but changes the frame ever so subtly through chapters that you know where you are in time and what is happening clearly. You never get stuck on the mathematics of the book, or the scientific areas, there is no jargon to speak of I believe, just the main theme, maybe just a bit about Martin Luther King Jr. being a trekkie, but other than that it sticks to the point.

I never really considered reading non-fiction thinking it boring and repetitive, but after reading this it made me want to read more about subjects such as this. I want to know more about the civil rights movement and the unspoken heroes of it. These women need more recognition for what they have succeeded in doing and so do all the others who have helped with the movement to help free America of the slavery of ignorance and intolerance. Read this book, even if you think non-fiction is not your cup of tea or whatever. Read it for the knowledge and the history.

Hidden Figures gets a 5/5 from me.

-Zachary