“Hidden Figures” steps into spotlight

Hidden Figures seems to have been on the fast track to success from the beginning.  Before the book was even published, a movie was in the works, which is something that you don’t normally see – after all, you’d probably want to know how people react to the book before you start paying to make a major film.  However, the story of the African American women who worked not only to build American planes during the second World War but also to launch men off the face of the Earth in the Space Race is one that seems hard to walk away from.

The book begins in the early 1940s, when women became greatly interwoven into the success of America.  While the men were off fighting, like ancient Sparta, the women stepped up.  They joined the workforce.  The four brilliant women around which the book is centered were teachers, and when the government needed people to serve as computers, or the people who performed the calculations for engineers, they stepped forwards.  They moved to Hampton, Virginia, where they worked in West Computing for the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

It also handles the racial aspects of the time in a very mature manner; it doesn’t gloss over things like segregation.  The women worked in West Computing because that was the computing group for African Americans.  They have to sit at segregated lunch tables, use segregated restrooms and live in segregated temporary housing developments.  Ms. Shetterly doesn’t skip over the language of the time either:  An author’s note before the prologue explains how she strived to make the book “true to the time period, and to the voices of the individuals represented in this story.”

A story about the ingenuity and perseverance of the African American women who worked in the aerospace industry, Hidden Figures expresses a wonderful sentiment.  These women beat the odds of the time to work building planes during World War II and to put an American man in space.  It’s well-written and captivating, while factually telling a lost story from our history.  If you’re looking for something to read, or it sounds interesting, I highly recommend that you seek this book out.