Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Half the Book Club had seen the movie of "Hidden Figures" starring Kevin Costner.  How to counter this clash of book vs movie?  One way is to present a racially cooling dessert:  Moon Pies with Vanilla Ice Cream.  It seemed to help - at least here were the comments:

Tom Genoni:   I echo Bob Simon's sentiment.  I was disappointed with the presentation, or lack thereof, of technology, but I understand that she is writing for a different audience.  For kids, this might enlighten them on History of race relations.  B

Rob E:  I would like to see plots, equations, better photos (look at the photo on the cover of the hard copy edition).  NASA should have better photos available - Sandia certainly does from that era.  Another theory on mixed names:  I picture non-fiction researchers as collecting their data on 3x5 index cards, and wanting to use all of them.  The first part of the book really dragged; the book began to energize on the NASA space program - it needed more of that energy when describing the wind tunnel program.  Based on the book:  B

Dick J:  I thought of the screenwriters turned this work into a movie.  The book was full of historical data.  Shetterly was an OK writer, not lively.  Characters not fully developed.  B

Mike B:  This appeared to be a high school historical writing project gone on far too long.  She began with the idea of a book with what could have been a great title:  Black Computers.  Then she realized there were white computers, and brought them in.  Then the project became a history of Langley Aeronautical Lab.  Then, what the heck, let's keep going through NASA.  Shetterly presented a not-so-hidden agenda of "Look at what we blacks went through, young readers = did you know there used to be Jim Crow laws in Virginia?"  I would not recommend this to anyone:  C

Ken:  I found it an interesting reminder of what blacks were going through.  The Movie was an A-.  The Book was a B-.  Boring.

Dick Arms:   Adequate writing, not great.  I learned some, but the book half as long would be better.  I felt beat over the head with the author's agenda:  a sermon, and I don't like being preached to.  B-

Bob Woods:  I didn't know how to read this book - was it a treatise on the Space Program or on Race Relations.  I am the oldest in the group; growing up in Virginia as a child, I recall blacks riding in the back of the bus.  In college, I saw women crunching numbers before Fortran.  100 years from now, this book may be of interest, but not now.  The author collected a great deal of research. B

Jack Ferrell:  The picture on the cover is a Langley researcher.  I saw the movie first, thoroughly enjoyed it.  A for the movie.  I enjoyed the book - I don't have a technical background, so the book provided background that the movie did not.  For the book:  B+

Charlie:  I agree with what's been said.  Too many words.  100 pages would suffice.  Peccadillo.  A grade of B- is generous.

Keith:  I thought that the author put women on a very high pedestal, and then it fell over.  Superlatives were not supported.  Too many axes to grind; this was an armory, not a book  C

         Numbing Numbers
These women were black and did math
Yet faced both numbers and wrath

So a few white men could race
To the edges of space
And return as heroes, not zeros!

and from far outside the West Computer Facility:

I enjoyed the book. Especially the chronicling of the slow progress toward equality by the women. I particularly liked the small acts of dissent like stealing the "Blacks Only" sign from the table in the lunch room every day.
It did not think the book was much more than a chronicle of disparate events related to the development of air power and then space exploration as seen from the lives of the women who worked at the Hampton center. I give the book a B.

    -  Bob from my iPad

I wish to supplement my review to include the thought that the women mentioned in the book and many of our members must have shared what the book covered very well. That for all the folks who ever gazed at the moon, there have only been a handful who thought of it as a realistic possibility and even fewer who were lucky enough to have the knowledge to be able to help to make it happen. The book is dedicated to those black women and their ability to not only deal with the mathematics and physics problems of making a trip to the moon and back possible, but to do so while fighting for racial equality.