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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 2017-03-27 16:31
Not What I Expected But ...
Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can't See Clearly - Isaac Lidsky

Who doesn't need help overcoming obstacles? Recognizing opportunities, who'd ever want to miss one of those ? I expected the usual self help guide with steps examples and mantras to follow. I got a memoir with real life experiences. The author dealt with blindness slowing becoming one of his realities. In this books he bravely walks his reader through his fails, wins, stumbles, and triumphs over himself and his awakening to what is real not an illusion. His going blind, forced him to focus on other parts of life and judge them with a clearer vision. He had to reevaluate his actions, finding very surprising reasoning behind them.
I respect this mans journey and his strength to open his world to help others. I got some excellent points to work on for opening my own eyes. Truly listening is a big one I struggle with. "Tell it to my like I'm a 5 year old" His made a comment about how we listen only to react. I had that gasp moment, yes that is sadly true. I've been working on this and it is a hard one to break. the mind/ego wants to wander and dominate the conversation. For me this is the most important lesson I got from the book. I'm a work in progress. While I didn't get what I expected from this book based on the title I did get at least one great thing from it. I suspect each person will pick their own lesson to grab ahold of or maybe all of them ?

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review 2017-03-26 18:05
Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald
Onions in the Stew - Betty MacDonald

Betty and her family had quite the time on Vashon Island, Washington State. With her second husband (Don MacDonald) and her two young girls (Joan and Anne), Betty experienced the joys and disappointments of living on an island. Set during WWII, this mostly autobiographical book recounts Betty’s life with wry humor and insight.

Once again, Betty has amused me. By now, after reading 4 books by her, I feel like Betty is somewhat of a friend. I really enjoyed this book from clamming to peaches to teen years to housecleaners. Living on Vashon Island, which was only connected to the mainland via ferries and personal boats, was quite a bit rougher than she and her family expected. There’s also the beauty of having an island house which is also captured well in this book.

The MacDonalds took over the house during an idyllic summer. There were plenty of clams on their personal beach, including geoduck clams. The downstairs practically-outdoor shower was perfect for rinsing off after time in the sea. The great big hearth would be quite wonderful in winter. Then the cold season sets in. The family comes to find out that having a nearly-outdoor shower is onerous to heat up in winter. The great big hearth is truly magnificent but you have to haul in the wood for it, usually driftwood from the beach. The reality settles in and yet the MacDonalds still find much to love about the island.

Betty does such a great job with the humor. She gently pokes fun at everyone and is a little more jabby when focusing the eye on herself. She praises her daughters abilities while also realistically portraying their teen-aged arguments and volatile mood swings. There are plenty of characters that appear through the several years this book covers. Some are helpful handymen, some good cooks, some terrible at child rearing, some are drunk and merry.

Onions in the Stew does a good job of showing the hardships or inconveniences (depending on your point of view) of island living. Betty doesn’t paint the entire experience as a ‘wonderful’ way of life. Nope. Using humor she gives us a slice of reality. That is the root of why I enjoy her books so much. While The Plague and I is still my favorite book by her, this one was quite good as well.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson is great as the voice of Betty MacDonald. She also did a great job with the voices of Joan and Anne even as they age throughout the book. I also enjoyed her male voices, including Don’s. Her Japanese accent was also good.

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review 2017-03-25 22:06
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation - Barbara Arrowsmith-Young,Norman Doidge

A truly interesting story and program that I had never heard of. It makes me wish this kind of testing and solutions were more prolific.

This is the kind of title that really catches my attention, especially in non-fiction. I'm a huge fan of non-fiction. The whole concept of the Arrowsmith school amazes me. This book not only does a great job of recounting the life of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, in her own words, but also many of the categories of deficits that people can have and that hinder their potential. I found myself thinking about some bright underachievers I know and wondering if the program would suit them.

The idea that you can simply train your brain past learning disorders by finding a way to trigger that part of the brain into action is exciting. The possibilities then seem endless for everyone. I know that there are implementation issues, especially since it doesn't seem feasible that this can be done online for now and because not many schools have this program yet, but I'm hopeful, given the growth the program has had and the countless success stories. Maybe we'll look back one day at all the research and programs done by the Arrowsmith team and see an entirely different world for children and their potential than we do now.

While her own story and the formation of the school were interesting, I was particularly drawn to the stories of the students and the cognitive exercises created to help them past their learning disorders. I was surprised that it sometimes took years after starting a set of exercises to really see progress in normal life, but that students persisted through them. I know far too many people that would have given up in a few weeks if they weren't seeing improvement. I was also impressed with the parents who sent their children to be evaluated and who enrolled them into the school later. I looked up the school and just the evaluation is $2000. But in the words of one person, "You pay it now or you pay it later."

I can't remember if that was a student or a parent, but it remains a good point. The people who benefit from this program are people who are intelligent but have learning disorders that hinder their ability to get a rounded education and then later hinder their ability to get or keep a good job. Many of the adult students had been labeled "bright but lazy" or as underachievers because a deficit, as the book actually calls it, kept them from learning a skill that they needed.

I really did appreciated using "deficit" instead of "disorder". It was a great substitution because deficit implies that a person doesn't have something rather the way disorder makes it seem like something is wrong with that person.  Maybe it's just semantics but I feel like picking up a skill that's hard to get is a lot better of a way to frame it than trying to "fix" someone.

This was a fascinating read, well listen. I listened to the audiobook while I was cleaning the house I was moving out of and then while doing some prep work on the one that I moved into. I would just let it run, set up on a chair, and my husband wandered in after a while to comment on how interesting he was finding it too. It amused me because normally he couldn't care less about whatever book I'm playing. It caught his attention too because of the way it takes great care to describe each deficit, tie it to a personal experience of some student, give a way to relate to it or experience a small part of the decifit and then elaborate on what was done to attain the skill that it blocked. It also went into the coping or compensation methods that the students had prior to being treated, which were fascinating to listen to. We all compensate for things we aren't so good at with things we are good at, but the level of compensations necessary were astounding.

My husband also recently had a concussion and his resulting troubles added a new level of interest for me to the work that had originally drawn Young to her work, Alexander Luria's work with brain trauma. That was an interesting story that I'd like to read one day too.

I did find it a little disappointing that the book didn't go into deeper detail on the exercises that were created to address some of the deficits, but I get the risk that could be imposed in doing so. I wouldn't want any sort of medical book to be detailed enough for someone with half an inclination to try to fix themselves or those around them. It should be left to professionals.

Personally, I think it would be great if everyone who works with children had read the book and if there were many more programs in schools. I am not proposing the system subscribe to this one method but I feel like it could be a good augment to many existing programs that address learning disorders. Schools could potentially do an assessment on students at the beginning of giving them compensations so that they could both get by with what they can do now, but also attain the missing skill when possible. It seems like that would be a win for everyone. But I'm no professional and wouldn't know the reasons for not incorporating something like this in a school system other than cost. I do get how costs of things can be prohibitive in public school systems and, as stated above, the assessment is quite expensive.

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text 2017-03-17 11:38
Nonfiction Library Book Haul
The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital - Alexandra Robbins
George Lucas: A Life - Brian Jay Jones
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day
Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior - Richard O'Connor
J.J. Abrams vs. Joss Whedon: Duel for Media Master of the Universe - Wendy Sterba

Been enjoying my foray into non-fiction. So I hit up the library and took out some nonfiction books I found interesting.  

 

J.J. Abrams vs Joss Whedon could be interesting. Fan of both.

 

Looking forward to all of these!

 

Still deciding on my Friday reads. I will probably post them later today. Decisions, decisions...

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