Shetterly, L. Margot. (2016). Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
1. Where is the book on the narrative continuum?
It is highly narrative (reads like fiction)
2. What is the subject of the book?
It is about three African American women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson who worked at Langley Field for the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics in the segregated Jim Crow era of the 1940’s through the 1980’s.
3. What type of book is it?
It is a biography of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson’s lives before and during their careers from the 1940’s to date to at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Lab (renamed later to NASA).
4. Articulate appeal
o What is the pacing of the book?
It is slow because of all the historical information presented in the book.
o Describe the characters of the book.
The main characters are as follows:
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson were all math teachers in segregated schools, married and with children. They were also confident, very smart, and extremely hardworking and dedicated to their jobs and family even when they were far away from them.
o How does the story feel?
o It was a very detailed, thoroughly researched story but it felt sterile and impersonal. The author just wrote the facts and details but didn’t include any descriptive characterizations that would have brought these incredible women to life!
What is the intent of the author?
The author is a daughter of a NASA scientist and grew up in the community where NASA is located at (formerly known as NACA- National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) in Hampton, Virginia. She wants to tell the unknown true story of African American women who worked as ‘human computers’ for NASA and made lasting contributions in the United States history of Space Science. She focuses on the lives of three of these women in her book.
o What is the focus of the story?
The book discusses the women’s lives before and after being hired at the Langley Research Center and the projects they were on. It also includes social injustice issues that were taking place during that time such as segregation in all areas of life and the Jim Crow law. In addition, the author mentions other historically significant facts such as the Cold War, scientific developments and the advent of the first generation of IBM computers.
o Does the language matter? Yes
o Is the setting important and well described?
Yes, the author describes the different areas in great detail. The Langley Memorial Center where the women worked as well as the town, Hampton, Virginia where it is located is important to the narrative of the women’s story.
o Are there details and if so, of what?
The author uses a descriptive style to describe the Langley Memorial Center and the campus of the military base and the town where both resides in. The details that stayed with me was the description of the wind tunnel that were three stories high and called the sixteen foot high-speed tunnel and it stretched over three hundred feet wide and one hundred feet deep!
o Are there sufficient charts and other graphic materials? Are they useful and clear?
o Does the book stress moments of learning, understanding, or experience?
Yes, it’s a part of history which was unbeknownst to the general population for decades.
5. Why would a reader enjoy this book (rank appeal)?
o Compelling subject
o Historical facts throughout the book