January Book & Movie Review: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
I love a good space novel. The Martian is still one of my favorite books that I read last year. But I’ve been on a history kick lately. I am a sucker for historical books. If you can recall last month I reviewed The Girls of Atomic City a book about the women involved in the Manhattan Project.
This month I decided to pick up Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. Being a lover of space I knew this book would be a perfect read. Plus the movie came out earlier this month which meant I could go see it as soon as I finished the book. And that’s what I did!
The book begins by introducing each of the many women highlighted in Hidden Figures. You hear their backstories and what got them into the role as a West Computer at Langley. Most women were math teachers in the school system but were lured in by the salary increase Langley offered. Each woman had a college degree and years of experience qualifying them for the role.
Going into reading the book, I knew it would involve Civil Rights and Women’s Rights. What surprised me was the great deal of involvement these African-American women had in shaping the history of the Langley workforce. Dorothy Vaughan fought her a supervisor role for years demanding higher pay and the title. It wasn’t until she taught herself FORTRAN, the coding for the IBM computer at Langley, that people began to see her potential. They needed someone like her to lead computers through training of the IBM computer.
The book runs through the Mercury program and all the way to the lunar landing. The West Computers gathered together to watch as Neil stepped foot on the moon. They knew how important their roles were leading them up to a lunar victory. We had finally defeated the Russians in the space race thanks to the help of many men and women of different races.
Overall, I enjoyed the book but I felt at times there was a lot of information to remember. At times I had a hard time getting myself to pick the book up and focus. But it is written well and shares the stories with honesty and inspiration.
After reading the book I wasn’t sure what to expect for the movie. The book is full of details that I wasn’t sure how it would translate into a movie. Margot Lee Shetterly was an executive producer on the film and it showed! They did a great job introducing the 3 women and following their journey through Langley.
The movie still highlights the struggles these women had to deal with on a day-to-day basis with segregation. I think it was so important for audiences to see this. It’s one thing to brush off the racism that was present back then but to truly understand what these women went through is another thing.
The cast was perfect in my eyes! Octavia Spencer played a strong Dorothy Vaughan. Taraji P. Henson did a wonderful job playing the genius Katherine Johnson. And Janelle Monae? She was a ferocious Mary Jackson. These women did a wonderful job portraying these strong and inspiring women.
Overall, I preferred the movie over the book which I rarely ever do. But I loved the way the movie was composed and felt they did a great job highlighting each of these women and their successes.
Have you see or read Hidden Figures? What did you like best about it? Share with us!