Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterley

Hidden Figures

Title: Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
Author: Margot Lee Shetterley
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, FeminismHistoryMemoirsScience
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: William Collins
Year: 2016
5th sentence, 74th page: If Dorothy Vaughn had been able to accept Howard University’s offer of graduate admission, she likely would have been Claytor’s only female classmate, with virtually no postgraduate career options outside of teaching, even with a master’s degree in hand.

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The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, some of the brightest minds of their generation, known as ‘human computers’, used pencils and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War and the Space Race, Hidden Figures is a powerful, revelatory tale of race, discrimination and achievement in the modern world. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst and Kevin Costner.


I bought this book because I’ve seen the ads for the movie. I, as always, wanted to read the book before I watched the movie – there’s just something far more satisfying about reading the words before watching the adaptation. And I was not disappointed in the slightest. Although this is a pretty heavy going book. At least for someone like me, who has almost no knowledge of American history and, more specifically, the challenges faced by African-Americans throughout the past.

I love the world of science and maths, you don’t agree to do an undergrad and postgrad degree in the area if you don’t! NASA, however, has always been a bit of an abstract interest – I’m more into the environmental aspects of science than the physics. But, after reading this, I want to find out more about the contributions that NASA has provided the rest of the world. The fact that it was a great way to break down social and racial stigmas kind of made it all the more appealing. And this is including the role of Langley and its conception in WWII.

One of the things that I loved about this book was that it didn’t just focus on one or two women. Rather, there was a whole slew of women who contributed to the space race, and this is reflected by the telling of their stories. Although three main women continued to appear again and again, there were a number of other individuals who were mentioned and illuminated throughout this story.

For anyone with an interest in politics, equality, science, maths, or just really likes a good story, I would definitely recommend this novel! It certainly opened my eyes (and my mind).

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Image source: Amazon UK

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