Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hidden Figures Book Review

I set a goal at the beginning of the year to document all the books I read in 2017.   A full list can be found here, but  I thought I'd publish each book review in a separate post going forward, so that they don't all get lost in an already published blogpost.   I had to wait several weeks for this to become available at the library, but it was a book worth reading.    


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

Characters:  Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden

I'm one of those people who first saw the movie and was left inspired by those intelligent women who pushed so many boundaries and in the process helped change the racial landscape of America.   I was interested to read their stories more in depth, which is what led me to pick up this book.      

I really wanted to love the book wholeheartedly, but to me, it only came off okay.  The women's stories are as absolutely amazing as the movie portrays them to be and even more so reading more details about them, but the author presented them in a way that came off as a bit disorganized and confusing to me.    It took me more than half the book to be able to start keeping the characters straight and I found the jumping around in time to be exceedingly disorienting as to where in history I was reading about.  

Setting those faults aside, I was intrigued by the subject matter.   I consider myself somewhat well-read and intelligent, but I am embarrassed to admit that I did not realize the details of the whole separate, but equal concept within education and how much it harmed both blacks and whites to maintain two separate educational systems.   Living in Virginia,   I was especially intrigued reading the details of  how the political leaders in Virginia were among the last to embrace de-segregation and to what ridiculous lengths they went to prevent it from happening.   I was also interested reading about how much of the rest of the world viewed America's racism as backwards and unethical.  It was a viewpoint that I had never considered before, but it makes sense considering the mix of skin tones that fill the world.

In conclusion, I was inspired by these women's  intelligence, their ability to work long and hard (their work sounded soooooo tedious!!!), and the grace with which they dealt with the many indignities that faced them because of the color of their skin and their gender.     I wished their stories had been presented a little better, but I'm just glad their stories have been told.   4 stars

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