Monday, March 27, 2017


Image result for hidden figures book coverAuthor: Margot Lee Shetterly

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

Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, History, Biography

Publication Date: September 6, 2016

Number of Pages: 368

Geographical Setting: Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory and Hampton, Virginia

Time Period:1940’s-1960’s

Plot Summary: At first glance, I figured this book would be about the African American women who worked at Langley Field for the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics (later it would become NASA) and their journey to become the unsung heroes of space exploration. While it is that, it is so much more. Most of these women were hired during World War II to be human computers. They were expected to do the same work at the male mathematicians for the same pay. Not only that, but these women were kept in a segregated “computing” area due to the Jim Crow laws of the time. These women proved themselves to be valuable assets to the organization and went on to become department heads and engineers. This book weaves together personal and professional lives, as well as the important social justice issues that were taking place at the time. The author touched on segregation, education, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Star Trek and how all of these played an important role in how these women came to be pioneers in their field and advocates for STEM education in young women and African Americans. This book is filled with triumph and heartache, but to see how these women persevered under these circumstances is truly inspiring.   

Subject Headings: United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- Officials and employees -- Biography.
Women mathematicians -- United States -- Biography.
African American women -- Biography.
African American mathematicians -- Biography.
Space race.
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century.
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies.
SCIENCE / Space Science.

Appeal: Anyone interested in the history of space exploration and stories about strong females.

Genre: Adult books for young adults; Books to movies; History writing; Science writing

Tone: Inspiring

Writing Style: Richly detailed

Three terms that best describe this book:  Empowering, Technical, Dry

Relevant Works and Authors

I wanted to love this book so much, but this was tough for me. I love non-fiction, I love strong women, space, and shattering glass ceilings. I thought this book was written for me. The writing was very dry, had little personality, and the stories overlapped in a strange way that made following a timeline or even characters difficult. I liked it, just didn’t love it. I have not seen the movie yet, but I imagine that it brings to life these obviously dynamic and courageous characters better than the book does.


  1. I am glad that you included your honest view about the book. Given the subject matter, I would have expected it to have much more interesting language than you described. I don't typically read nonfiction, though, so I expect all books that sound interesting to be written as fiction. These characters seem to be full of personality; the potential for this book is great. I am sorry that it fell flat for you. Did it include a lot of jargon? Being centered around mathematicians and NASA, I would be nervous that I wouldn't understand all of the language that they used.

    I really want to see the movie! I feel like they can't go wrong with the cast they have chosen.

  2. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book. The movie was so good, I would have thought the book would be too. I agree with Paige that I liked your honest review because now I don't think I will read the book. Maybe I'll just watch the movie again :)

  3. Thank you for your honest opinion about the book. I have had high expectations for it because the movie looks so good. I missed your appeal terms the first time and you do mention that the book is technical and dry. Some of the other titles you mention as relevant seem quite interesting. I have wanted to read The Astronaut Wives Club.

  4. I am sorry to hear that you did not love the story. There are many talented nonfiction authors that are able to tell a factual story written more like fiction. I just finished a book by Karen Abbott who was able to let the story unfold naturally and kept my interest throughout the unappealing history of the Civil War. I am disappointed to hear the writing was "a little dry" and had "little personality". I think this is an important story that needed to be told. I will still keep it on my to-read list.

  5. This is on my To Read list as well, however there are actually a couple different books out there about these women. Have you read any of the others?

  6. Fantastic annotation! You did a great job describing the summary and appeals. Sorry it fell a little flat for you but I'm glad you included that in your personal thoughts. Full points!