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Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race Hardcover – September 6, 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars 3,019 ratings

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  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

In popular culture, Rosie the Riveter symbolized the thousands of women who worked assembly line jobs during World War II; her image lives on as an iconic poster for women's rights. Shetterly tells a companion story: starting in 1945, about 50 college-educated African American female mathematicians were among the approximately 1,000 women quietly hired by Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory as entry-level "computers"— their job title before the actual machine was invented. The author focuses on four black women who worked alongside engineers—that more prestigious title went to white men—to run tests, produce calculations, and tweak theories, pushing America into the modern aviation age. Their work ethic, smarts, and loyalty also gave them something else: earning power. Proudly securing a place in the middle class for their families, they could afford their own homes and college educations for their children. In exchange, they agreed to fit in—enduring, for example, the daily humiliation of the company's segregated cafeteria. Even the few who simply ate at their desks agreed, implicitly, to keep politics out of the workplace. As an insider, Shetterly, whose father was an African American career scientist at Langley, pieces this history together lovingly and carefully, with more than 250 footnotes. Now a mainstream movie, this is an inspiring account that is not so much hidden as it is untold. VERDICT Spotlighting pioneering black women who made their mark as mathematicians during segregation, this is a must for history collections.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

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“Meticulous… the depth and detail that are the book’s strength make it an effective, fact-based rudder with which would-be scientists and their allies can stabilize their flights of fancy. This hardworking, earnest book is the perfect foil for the glamour still to come.” (Seattle Times)

“Much as Tom Wolfe did in “The Right Stuff”, Shetterly moves gracefully between the women’s lives and the broader sweep of history . . . Shetterly, who grew up in Hampton, blends impressive research with an enormous amount of heart in telling these stories (Boston Globe)

“Restoring the truth about individuals who were at once black, women and astounding mathematicians, in a world that was constructed to stymie them at every step, is no easy task. Shetterly does it with the depth and detail of a skilled historian and the narrative aplomb of a masterful storyteller.” (Bookreporter.com)

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3,019 customer ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2017
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Top international reviews

OKCole
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling social more than technical history
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 14, 2018
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ChrisG
5.0 out of 5 stars Ana astonishing account of brilliant women and much much better than the film.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 22, 2017
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gina's mom
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story, terrible writing.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 2, 2017
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Brgirl
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible writing style but a wonderful story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 4, 2018
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Wednesday's child
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the book, never mind the film.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 18, 2017
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Iain61
4.0 out of 5 stars An Uplifting Story - and some very readable information about the US aerospace industry and space program
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 30, 2017
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M. J. Worthington
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent companion to the film.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 28, 2019
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kathleen wilson
1.0 out of 5 stars Should be compelling! but is so boring.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 8, 2020
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MJM
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book; great complement to the film of the same time.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 10, 2017
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Briony Holyoake
5.0 out of 5 stars Book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 18, 2017
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V T G Horsley
5.0 out of 5 stars A vital history
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 6, 2019
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MMD
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and informative history which highlights previously invisible contributions
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 4, 2018
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Ms F.
3.0 out of 5 stars This story came to my attention when the film won ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 31, 2017
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Treetops
5.0 out of 5 stars One enormous step for scientific minds
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 26, 2017
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Anonymous
3.0 out of 5 stars You would think it would be impossible to write a dull book with all that to work with
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 7, 2018
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