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Search tags: biography-memoir
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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 2016-10-21 21:28
Until We Are Free
Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran - Shirin Ebadi

This is the first book of my new challenge to read all the women Nobel laureates! It was a great start. While Ebadi does cover her level of involvement in setting up the Nobel Women's IniativeOne Million Signatures, and later the establishment of the Center of the Defenders of Human Rights, this is mostly a memoir of her life during these times. She talks more about big life changes, her fears and her outrages, and the overall state of women in Iran. It's not the book I thought it was, but that's not a bad thing.

This book is mainly about what happened after she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. As eluded to above, the government Iran was not pleased with her award and her work and the way it all made them look. She became a target and so did everyone around her, not that it stopped everyone from doing the work that needed to be done. This was a great book about her personal struggles and the rationale behind many of Ebadi's decisions. It also provides an interesting insight into the events that were dubbed the "Arab Spring".

I listened to the audiobook, read by Shohreh Aghdashloo. I didn't recognize her name but Aghdashloo has been in several movies and tv shows. Her voice had been somewhat familiar but I recognized her face right away. The link will take you to her IMDB. She does a great job narrating the book. As always, I appreciate getting to listen to names in other cultures that I would not only butcher but not get a chance to hear how gorgeous they can be.

I would have liked to hear more about Ebadi's work and details on some speaking engagements, but the lack of that information didn't deter from being able to appreciate the book and what she does tell us. She continues to work for Iran through the center mentioned above, visit their site for updates on her work and statements.

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review 2016-09-15 18:03
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter - Carmen Aguirre

I think my favorite thing about this book is that Aguirre doesn't pull any punches. She describes the different fears that were a part of her life, the way people looked after beatings, and her belief in what she was doing. She relates what happened around her and what she did and that she wasn't just sitting on the sidelines and hoping that things would get better.

I appreciate that she just gives her opinion without trying to convince the reader of right and wrong. It isn't a plea or an argument and she doesn't justify what she was doing to the reader. She just tells you what it was and what she did on account of it. She also doesn't pretend to be perfect or brave all the time. Showing how hard something, especially something like revolution, is hard and it does everyone a disservice when we pretend it can happen in a day or night.

I listened to audiobook, and I loved both her writing style and that she narrated the book for herself. I loved the inclusion of the epilogue and that she relates what was happening in those countries during the publishing back to the resistance because progress doesn't happen in a vacuum. It was an interesting look into what was happening in South America in the late part of the twentieth century. It's definitely not one that we get in the US often.

I had originally found this book as part of the Diverse Books Tag that I did about memoirs (click here for mine). It was my book for "set in South America. Coincidentally, it's also my first review during Hispanic Heritage month!

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review 2016-06-14 21:15
Booknote: Black Mass, plus some thoughts on the film
Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal - Gerard O'Neill,Dick Lehr

This is a story that on the one hand can be hard to believe. On the other hand, it is a story that is easy to believe given the reputation of law enforcement of often breaking rules they are supposed to enforce and making deals with criminals of dubious value. Sure, taking down the Boston Mafia was a noble goal, but the FBI basically sold its soul to Bulger and enabled his own rise to control organized crime in Boston. Add to this a serious lack of accountability, the FBI's own internal corruption, and a parade of barely competent FBI supervisors, and you get a recipe for a disaster the FBI will be trying to amend for years to come.

 

Click the link to read my full review at The Itinerant Librarian. This review includes my thoughts on the film, which I watched shortly after having read the book.

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review 2014-07-25 23:21
Booknote: Methland
Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town - Nick Reding

Reding went to Oelwein, and then to places such as California, Idaho, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, and Missouri, small towns and big cities, in order to give us context for Oelwein and the meth problem, a problem that even draws from places as far away as China. It documents the death (and rebirth) of the town and the birth and life of meth. We learn that small town America is not really the idyllic place many people think it is, but it neither a wasteland or just flyover country.

 

Click on the link to read my full review, which I have posted on my blog, The Itinerant Librarian.

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