Book Review: HIDDEN FIGURES by M. L. Shetterly

I’ve watched many movies only to be disappointed because the book’s narrative force makes the movie seem puny. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, JUST MERCY, CRUCIBLE, BLACKKKLANSMAN, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY are just a few titles where the book far exceeds the movie in narrative force. HIDDEN FIGURES is the exception. HIDDEN FIGURES the book moved much more slowly than I anticipated. It was written with the dryness of a high school history textbook. Once I realized this, I began to read it as it was written; I did not expect more from the book than it offered. I got much more out of the book after I changed my reading approach. But, in terms of entertainment value the movie far exceeds the book.

What this book does well, however, is it provides principles individuals and society must embrace to make the impossible possible. Books with this message intrigue me which is why I read so many autobiographies written by black people. Every authobiography I’ve read about a black person in the United States has some sort of impossible obstacle to overcome – most of the time brought on by their racism. This making a way out of no way narrative intrigues me because I can connect it to my own experience.

Step by Step Progress

This narrative is about how black women who are treated as third class citizens helped the NASA Space program. They had impossible odds to overcome including where they were born and raised, racism in education, and segregation. Their progress and progress in general happens step by step.


In the face society working against their success and contribution, they still envisioned themselves able to do the impossible. Each figure envisioned herself making contribution to the space program and the world. They thought beyond their current experiences with exquisite imagination and believed what they envisioned could become a reality.


They made what they envisioned a reality because they had a plan. Each figure had a plan for their own progress while recongnizing that their progress would help others as well. One planned to master a program which she was barred from learning. She went to library and as an autodidact learned the program on her own. She brought the skill back to NASA helping its space program. Their ability to plan was on the same level as Richard Dove Williams who created a plan for 68 page plan for Venus and Serena Williams, the tennis goddesses, before they were born.


To make the impossible possible the figures sacrified. They sacrified their dignity, they sacrified their time with family, they sacrified intimate relationships. One figure delayed marriage because of her commitment to her career. The figures were familiar with sacrifice because of all the challenges they had to overcome before they stepped through NASA’s doors.

This story should not have ever happened. There should not have been such blatant and ignorant discrimination. Our world would be much better if people where treated equally and their sex and race were honored rather than stigmatized. Since our society continues to treat women and people of different ethnic backgrounds with disrespect, we will continue to read stories like the one found in HIDDEN FIGURES. People will not yield once and for all to disrespect and discrimination. Just ain’t gonna happen.

Until the day of full equality dawns we must learn from others who’ve overcome the demonic acts of discrimination. We must make step by step progress, plan, and sacrifice.


Twitter: @growthucator

Leave a Reply