Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on October 26, 2017.
The film felt a lot more cohesive, this was interesting but quite bitty, one minute I was following one life and the next another and it just didn't flow for me. It was enjoyable but somehow unsatisfying, the lives were fascinating, what they had to endure and go through to get where they were was amazing. The book could also have done with some illustrations, I do better with factual books where I can visualise the people involved. Still it was interesting and kept me reading well past my bedtime.
I had never heard of this story of black mathematicians who played important roles in NASA's space programs. Sure, we know of Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, etc. But have you heard of these names of these women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine? I'm not a hardcore space fan but I had no inkling of this story whatsoever until the trailers of the movie with the same name came out.
The book is about the stories of these women and their lives. The space program, civil rights, the Cold War, etc. Sadly we don't hear of these stories because they get lost when highlighting those of Glenn and Armstrong. Which is not to say we shouldn't celebrate either of those men and what they achieved. But I find it a bit appalling that I've never heard of these women, had no idea what roles they played and could have possibly gone my entire life not knowing what they contributed to the space program. That said...the book isn't very good.
The text is very dry and wordy. Like other reviewers have said, none of the women particularly stood out to me as individuals. It may have to do with that these women are very old or no longer with us but I just didn't find the book compelling. Usually the subject matter can be enough to keep me interested (and I really WANTED to like the book) but it just did not work for me.
That said, it's an important story and maybe it was just a book that wasn't going to click for me for whatever reason. Others would probably really enjoy this and I still completely intend to check out the film when it gets released. But this book was not for me. I'd suggest you borrow it from the library or at least check it out on shelf before deciding to purchase.