'2016 Best Audiobooks' selection, AudioFile Magazine.
Soon to be a major motion picture.
Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as 'Human Computers', calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these 'colored computers' used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Moving from World War II through NASA's golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women's rights movement, 'Hidden Figures' interweaves a rich history of mankind's greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.
©2016 Margot Lee Shetterly (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
This book details the struggles and determination of a group of black women to be recognised for their worth. Brilliant mathematicians, they were housed in their own department and endured humiliating segregation socially despite working alongside white male colleagues.
What's really interesting about this book is that it examines the impact of the women becoming successful- good and bad.
The narrative is provided warmly but the underlying steel of the book shines through the narration and it beautifully brings the story to life.
as expected the story is more detailed on the lives of the key women from background through the NACA years and segregation issues faced in the US at the time
I can quite understand why this has been made into a movie and I will be watching that also
I would recommend the book, but possibly not in an audio format - it's a third person account, which makes it quite a 'dry' listen, fascinating story though it is.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - very similar writing style, true account, important story of advances made that have never been given the attention they deserve.
Scenes showing how the ladies were treated (with discrimination) in their early work.
Yes, but if I had known about the style, I might have opted for a paper version.
My review from Amazon:
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the amazing true story.
I love discovering 'unknown' true-life stories of real people that made a difference to our lives but have never been given proper credit for it. This reminded me of Henrietta Lacks and her story (also being made into a film), and the style of the book also reminded me of this one.
This is a fascinating story - the black women who worked behind the scenes of NASA in preparing flight paths for the first space explorations of the 1960s. This is their story as well as the story of how NASA got off the ground.
We meet several women who featured heavily in the story. Each is given time to have their background and family explored, and how they each made their way to a job in what would eventually become NASA. While the stories themselves are interesting, the book is written in a rather dry style, no speech or interaction, it's all 'told' to us by the narrator, much in the same way as Henrietta Lacks story unfolds, though I found this harder to listen to than to read on paper, as it all feels like one long lecture with no let-up. I admit I did tune out sometimes, though I didn't want to.
The narrator has a very easy voice to listen to, personable and expressive, very clear and precise, which helped, but the style of the narrative might be one that works best when read for oneself as a written account.
The most interesting parts of the book are not elaborated on as much as I wanted - the racism and prejudicial treatment the women underwent. Being both women AND black, they lived through times of momentous change, and the author talks about what they had to suffer (separate tables in the cafeteria, toilets possibly only accessible in other buildings, lower pay, lower status), but without their input and comments, it felt like a description rather than a life lived at points.
The social history and change of the period is well covered, though I did feel sometimes that I'd heard parts before, without being able to refer back - some things were mentioned more than once.
I was glad to see the epilogue included, talking about the women's lives after NASA and the moon landings, knowing what they and their families did with their lives in later years, it completed the story that had sen the women through from their young lives and felt as though they were suitably commemorated and acknowledged.
I'm not sure the style quite suits an audio format, and I admit I wasn't keen on the science/maths parts during which I felt rather lost, but the story of a group of women who pushed boundaries and made long-lasting differences for their families, gender, communities and the world at large is one that fully deserved to be told and remembered.
I now look forward to seeing the film and cementing the different women and their different stories into my head.
Nudge Books provided the Audible copy for my honest thoughts.
This was an excellent book, so much more information than the film, yet enhancing the film. The film conflates some things as it has too but certainly captured and brought to life in a very relatable way this incredible history of these amazing black women. Well worth every penny.
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