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Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race Paperback – December 6, 2016

4.4 out of 5 stars 317 customer reviews

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

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (December 6, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062363603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062363602
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (317 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Much hullabaloo has appeared in social media based on the release of the preview for the movie based on this book. The movie will be historical fiction, the book is not. The book is as much about the advances and science done at NACA and NASA as it is about the black women who were an integral part of this piece of history. It is an easy reading book and most readers will find it an interesting read as well.

I was an officer in the Air Force for 20 years, working in the missile and space industry. I also lived in Hampton, VA, for 6 years growing up. I feel like the author has given me back a piece of my history that I never knew was missing. I've always known that there are women who went before, upon whose shoulders I stand, but it is incredible to add a deeper understanding of what that meant and to know their names.

Thank you, Margot Lee Shetterly, for persevering and doing the work to bring this history to light in a way that makes it accessible.
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Format: Hardcover
Hidden Figures has garnered much attention for being the heretofore forgotten story of the African-American women who helped build NASA (or to be more exact, the NASA field center at Langley). The media has boiled the tale of these women down to the oft-used cliche "heroes"; Shetterley's narrative digs beyond that.

Sure, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, et al are amazing, inspiring, and strong, but their own modesty over their roles in NACA/NASA history is telling: like many black pioneers of the Jim Crow era, they didn't step up for the attention or accolades. They stepped up to be "the first" in order to pave the way for those who would come behind them.

Shetterley deftly reveals these cross-generational ties at Langley, as well as how for African-Americans, the professional is often the personal when it came to representation and community. The portions of the book that were the most fascinating to me were those pertaining to the links forged by the black community in the Southern Virginia area, and how they intersected with employment and residency in Hampton as the 20th century progressed.

Shetterley's prose shined the best on the minutia of the women's lives, but the parts about NACA/NASA were just as interesting--and Shetterley's explanations of the mathematics and aeronautics is masterful. It was never pedantic, yet never overly simplified. As I reached the end, I was disappointed there weren't more pages, but also even hungrier for more stories about the intersection of race, gender, and science!

Get this book! It is an excellent companion to Nathalia Holt's Rise of the Rocket Girls and Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club, for a comparison of the different experiences of women in the Space Race.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I only read this because it was the choice of my book group, but I'm really glad that I did. It's well written and a really good read. I learned a lot about the space program and what women have had to deal with in the work force. But this book dealt particularly well with how black society dealt with segregation and all the attendant hardships and how it fought against them. Although I thought I knew about segregation this author really opened my eyes to its day to day reality. This is one of the most important books I've read in a long time.
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Format: Hardcover
I admit I was completely ignorant of the story presented in HIDDEN FIGURES. I had no idea that black women played such a key role in our space program. It's great to finally acknowledge those who contributed so much--and received so little credit for their work.

HIDDEN FIGURES tells the story of four determined black women, who overcame numerous obstacles, and worked in the space program at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (now known as "Langley Research Center.") It was at this Virginia lab where Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden were able to employ their skills--and really make a difference. It was "behind the scenes" work back then--but now we know the real picture.

To give the reader an idea of how difficult it was for a woman--much less an African-American woman--to actually become a mathematician, the author notes these statistics: "In the 1930s, just over a hundred women worked as professional mathematicians." The likelihood of a black woman actually becoming a mathematician working on the space program was about zero: "Employers openly discriminated against Irish and Jewish women with math degrees. The odds of a black woman encountering work in the field hovered near zero."

Oddly, the Soviet Union actively encouraged women in engineering. The schools in the Soviet Union were “loaded with women” including many of their engineering grads. Alas--that was not the case in the United States, which "struggled to find a place for women and Negroes in its science workplace, and in society at large."

At the time, women generally got little credit for their work.
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