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review 2017-03-27 22:20
Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly

I am so glad that I read this after seeing the movie. I loved the movie, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the lifetime of achievement of the women featured in the movie plus there are more women mentioned in the book whose accomplishments aren't evident in the film. It's an amazing story and Shetterly relays it beautifully.

I loved every minute of reading this book and it needs to be in all school libraries. I get that schools don't have the time to devote to each historical topic, but having something like this (there is a Young Readers version available here) for them to read would be great. I wish I had spent more time in the non-fiction section back when I was in school but I'm trying to make up for it now. I love the stories of women throughout history, seeing that we've been contributing to the world in more than 2 ways, and promoting those stories when I see them. Fortunately, this one doesn't exactly need my help. It's been great to see all the notoriety this story has gotten, it's well deserved.

Shetterly goes a long way to giving the reader an understanding of not only the important nature of these women's work, but the sacrifices they made to do the work and the pressures they were under from several sources. The difference in the way they were treated at work and at home, by coworkers and by passersby on the sidewalk, is well delineated and it paints a good picture of what it must have meant to be there, to be breaking down barriers and to be given credit for their incredible intelligence. I appreciate that they all say they were just doing their jobs, which I'm sure is true, but there's always more to it than that. I've known people who "just" do their jobs and there's a difference between them and people who love the work. It's this difference that breaks down the barriers that these women took on, purposefully or not.

I appreciated Shetterly's inclusion of the timeline with the Civil Rights movement. I am familiar with the events from school and other reading, but it helped me out to have it overlaid on the timeline of the events at NACA and NASA, to understand the shifting sands the women found themselves on. She did a great job too of delineating the cultural and workplaces differences with being African American, a woman, or an African American and a woman. The African American men got to come in as engineers and the women had to fight for that too. White women were also given advantages over African American women, which caused the women featured here to deal with twice the problems the others had.

This is a book that everyone should read, but especially if you watched the movie, which really only covers half. The book carries the story of the three central women all the way to the moon landing, while the movie stops at John Glenn's orbit. Shetterly's writing style is impeccable and the story itself is astounding.

 

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review 2017-03-19 15:52
Man & Monster (The Savage Land, #2) by Michael Jensen
Man & Monster (The Savage Land: Book 2) - Michael Jensen

 

 

Man & Monster (The Savage Land, #2) is a blast of an historical fiction, m/m romance, horror novel!

 

Cole ("Cold-Hearted") Seavey meets up with the characters from Man & Beast (The Savage Land, #1) , out on the Ohio Frontier, circa 1799. (Namely John Chapman, (Johnny Appleseed), and Pakim, (our handsome Delaware Brave). Pakim rescues Cole after he finds him badly injured as the result of an attack. An attack from what is the question; especially after this creature begins to attack Hugh's Lick-the small settlement that is closest to John Chapman's claim.

 

Soon the reader is fully engrossed in the story of this town, its inhabitants and whatever the thing is that's hunting them. The characters are so solidly drawn, they're vivid in my mind. I was happy to see John Chapman again, (I didn't know that he was going to be in this one!) and Cole turns out to be anything but cold-hearted. He soon develops feelings for Pakim and together with John Chapman and others, they struggle to defend themselves against what Pakim believes is a Wendigo.

 

The real meat of this story was the mystery of the Wendigo. I have always had a fondness for creatures of legends of myth, and Wendigos are near the top of my list. Native American cultures are fascinating and so are the stories they told to each other. The author's research into these and into the norms and taboos of the white frontier-folk of the time really shines through and rings true.

 

With many exciting action scenes and twisty turns of the plot, Man & Monster turned out to be a lot of fun, even though it's wayyyy out of my wheelhouse. To me, it's always the story that is paramount, and in that regard, Michael Jensen delivers.

 

Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction, m/m romance, and HORROR!

 

You can get your copy here: Man & Monster (The Savage Land: Book 2)

 

*I received a free e-copy from the author in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* **In addition, I consider this author to be an online friend. This did not affect the content of my review.**

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review 2017-03-16 22:21
Podcast #38 is up!
John William McCormack: A Political Biography - Garrison Nelson

My thirty-eighth podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Garrison Nelson about his new biography of Speaker of the House John William McCormack (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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review 2017-03-13 17:50
The Speaker nobody knows
John William McCormack: A Political Biography - Garrison Nelson

John William McCormack's life was one defined by, and lived for, politics. Born in Boston, he grew up in poverty in the Irish Catholic neighborhoods in South Boston. Though he passed the bar without attending college or even high school, law was just the path to a career in politics. His ascent was a rapid one, as he went from his first election in to the state legislature in 1920 to Congress less than a decade and became majority leader after little more than a dozen years in the House of Representatives. There he enjoyed a complimentary partnership with Sam Rayburn that made them one of the most effective leadership teams in American history. Upon Rayburn's death in 1961, McCormack ascended to the speakership himself, from which he led the House of Representatives until his retirement in 1970.

 

Despite a career that encompassed some of the most legislatively important decades in American history, McCormack has never been the subject of a book-length biography until now. According to Garrison Nelson, this was in no small measure due to his efforts to cover up his father's background as a Scots Canadian, a detail that would have been fatal to his career in the ethnically-defined politics of Massachusetts in the early 20th century. This forms the cornerstone of Nelson's book, which situates McCormack's career in the context of the changing politics of his time. Delving deeply into the milieu of Boston Irish society, he sorts through the personalities and factions to show how McCormack navigated through the identity- and class-driven to claim his seat in the House. The skills he learned put him in good stead in the House, where Nelson attributes his success in winning leadership posts to his ability to build relationships with key Southerners such as the Texan Rayburn and Georgia's Edward Cox. As Nelson shows, straddling this divide became increasingly complicated over time, as the emergence of the civil rights movement and the rise of the liberal Democratic Study Group were a microcosm of the broader challenges facing the Democratic Party in the 1960s. Though McCormack's position was never seriously challenged, the connections he had forged with Southern congressmen opened him up to attacks from the left that complicated his time as speaker and damaged his reputation.

 

The product of decades of research, Nelson's book offers readers an impressive wealth of detail about Massachusetts politics and Congressional factionalism that makes it an indispensable source for anyone seeking to understand McCormack's political career, Boston Irish politics, and the mid-century Congress. Yet all of this is mashed together that makes the book itself less than the sum of its parts. While clearly a labor of love, Nelson allows his voluminous text to be burdened with repetition, with details repeated from chapter to chapter and sometimes even from page to page within them. Much of it could have been trimmed away to produce a leaner and more digestible text that would have given McCormack the book he deserves, but as it stands it is a book that is too weighted to serve as more than a resource for political junkies who are likely to be turned off by being reminded of minor facts with which they are already familiar.

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review 2017-02-28 16:47
Podcast #36 is up!
American Gandhi: A. J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century (Politics and Culture in Modern America) - Leilah Danielson

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Leilah Danielson about her new biography of the peace activist and labor organizer A. J. Muste (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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