BOOK REVIEW: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly


Title: Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Publication: December 6, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368

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SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. 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 ‘coloured 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.


I actually started watching this movie a while back.  Probably when it first came out.  True to form, when I figured out that it was a book, I of course stopped the movie and went in search of the book. I am sorry to say that I tried to read this book once before but found the content a little bit on the dry side.  Fast forward to now, I decided to try and listen to it because Audible had it on sale.  I will say while the content was still dry I still managed to finish the whole book, then watched the movie I am delighted to add. 

Before NASA was NASA they helped develop planes for the war efforts.  They hired human computers to work the numbers.  They hired black women to do the job.  They were well-educated woman who were teachers or had degrees in mathematics.  They would take all the numbers from tests and events and run the numbers to find the answers to the questions the engineers are looking for.  This book was dry. Not saying it was terrible it was just a little slow.  I did find it fascinating.  The segregation that occurred at NASA but at the same time didn’t was interesting.  The people trusted the computers without a doubt to get them the results quickly and have the numbers correct.  It was interesting to watch them move from airplanes for the war efforts to competing with Russia to get someone into space.  

It’s hard to admit that I didn’t know how much black women were involved with NASA and acting as computers for the various departments.  I guess it’s just something that never really crossed my mind at all.  I mean obviously, women can do anything, I just never pegged them as working at NASA.  Which is insane seeing as I am a woman in a male-dominated career.  The book is good but a very slow burn. That is why I rated it as I did.  It wasn’t the content or anything of that nature it was just written in a very cut-and-dry way.  I really enjoyed the movie.  I loved the way the characters were portrayed in the movie.  They brought the book to life in a way that the author couldn’t.  I was surprised when I looked up one of the main characters died in 2020. For what she gave to the space programs I am surprised that I didn’t hear more about her at the time. Maybe I didn’t and I just didn’t know what they were talking about.  Anyway, take what I say about the book with a grain of salt but certainly watch the movie it is great.  

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