Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: Wow, this was so good! Engaging, well written, clearly explained, inspiring.
I love discovering forgotten pieces of history and this is a great one, one that should be more well known. However, it will likely come as a surprise to most people to learn that the work of NACA (later NASA) during WWII and through the moon landing relied on the work of a large group of black, female mathematicians. These exceptional women made technical advances possible with their talent and drove social change with their optimism and determination. Focusing on four women who worked at NASA during this time period, Margot Lee Shetterly brings this story to life.
Shetterly’s personal connection to and enthusiasm for this story immediately won me over. It made me more enthusiastic and more engaged throughout the rest of the book. It helped that she also did a great job balancing the personal and technical information. As someone who knows nothing about aeronautics or aerospace engineering, I found her explanations fascinating and easy to follow. I also found the personal stories incredibly moving. I found the women in this story inspirational for their technical prowess; for their passion for their work; for their willingness to fight discrimination to do that work; and for the selflessness with which they helped one another.
The structure of the story was also well done. Told chronologically, the author shares the stories of four women of different ages, who grew up and worked at NACA/NASA at different times. This allowed the author to tell the big picture story of how America and NACA/NASA changed over time, while staying grounded in personal stories. Even if you’re not someone who usually picks up nonfiction, I’d recommend this engaging narrative. I found it compulsively readable and inspiring.
For some other perspectives, check out the other stops on the tour.