Hidden Figures

  • by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Narrated by Robin Miles
  • 10 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

One of AudioFile Magazine's Best Audiobooks of 2016.
Soon to be a major motion picture.
Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as 'Human Computers', calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these 'colored computers' used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
Moving from World War II through NASA's golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women's rights movement, 'Hidden Figures' interweaves a rich history of mankind's greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

How did I not know about these women?

This book details the struggles and determination of a group of black women to be recognised for their worth. Brilliant mathematicians, they were housed in their own department and endured humiliating segregation socially despite working alongside white male colleagues.

What's really interesting about this book is that it examines the impact of the women becoming successful- good and bad.

The narrative is provided warmly but the underlying steel of the book shines through the narration and it beautifully brings the story to life.
Highly recommended
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- Steph Adams

Unfocused

This is a thoroughly researched book that tells an important story. For that reason I wish I could recommend it more.
If you've seen the film you'll know what it's about: the significant role black women played in the space programme despite the prejudice against both their skin colour and their gender. Prior to the publication of this book, and the release of the film, their contribution was largely forgotten or unknown, even by people like myself who are interested in space travel.
So what's wrong with the book?
To my mind, it's the structure that lets it down. We're just told facts, dry facts and lots of 'em. And so many names! The film focuses on three key women, but in the book the names of the main characters are lost among the minor players. There's some moving about in time too, so that it's quite hard to follow, especially as an audio book. It's not helped by the narrator's monotone, which makes the story fall quite flat at times.
If I'd been editor I'd have given chapter titles that clue us in to the purpose of the chapter. Let us know whether a chapter is focused on Katherine Johnson, or Mary Jackson, or relevant historical events, or technological developments at the time, or whatever. This could make the book much more accessible without having to dumb it down.
Don't get me wrong, it's not all dull and worthy. There are breathtaking moments, such as the appearance of Sputnik, John Glenn's precarious landing and so on. Also, the author is not in any way trying to make readers/listeners feel guilty for being white and/or male, and in fact there are heart-warming moments when friendships form that look beyond colour or gender.
At the end of the day, getting through this book is more of an effort than it should be, but is nevertheless worth the effort.
I will probably listen to the book again, or perhaps read a print version. I'll also watch the film again, even though I now know it takes a few liberties with history.
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- MR

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-09-2016
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited