Monday May 29, 2017

If you liked Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, you should read...

The film Hidden Figures was based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.

The film Hidden Figures was based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. (Fox)

Listen 11:46

Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures tells the story of the Black female mathematicians behind some of NASA's greatest achievements. In 2016, Shetterly's book was adapted was adapted into the Oscar-nominated movie of the same name. If you enjoyed Hidden Figures, The Next Chapter columnist Victor Dwyer recommends Promised the Moon by Globe & Mail journalist Stephanie Nolen. Promised the Moon explores the lives of the female pilots recruited to a NASA-affiliated astronaut training program. 

Hidden Figures - Margot Lee Shetterly

Breaking down barriers

It's interesting looking at the whole NASA situation. They pulled down walls within their own organization and let these women integrate because they needed them. At the beginning when they were in there, they sat in their own cafeteria where it said "Coloured Girls" at their tables. They had their own washrooms. There were no black astronauts. There were no black people at mission control. There were no black administrators. It's also interesting that the story takes place in Virginia, a very conservative state back then. 

These women are living this progressive life in NASA and they go home at night to segregated neighbourhoods and all kinds of political pushback. Even within NASA there was turbulence because there was a lot of ignorance and outright prejudice along with progressiveness. It's an interesting story of politics and science. 

BOOK COVER - PROMISED THE MOON

 

An edgy alternative

Hidden Figures is much more a rah-rah story. It's the story of sexism in America and the story of NASA as a bastion of male privilege, but it's also a story of the women involved. It's patriotism despite our segregation. Promised the Moon is much edgier, much more salt than the sugar. A big story within it is the story two women who were enemies. Stephanie says they were a big reason why women didn't make it into space as pilots.

Victor Dwyer's comments have been edited and condensed.