Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly


Title: Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Copyright: September 6th 2016
Genre: non-fiction
Format: book Pages: 368

I saw the preview for the movie “Hidden Figures” around two months ago and the cast for the movie are some actresses (Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer) that I really like. They would be be portraying the women from the book. This movie is based on a true story about black women that were mathematicians back in the 30s thru the 70s that contributed to major developments in aeronautical engineering with NACA (Nationa Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) and later for NASA’s space program.  I found out that the movie was based on a book so I quickly zoomed over to Amazon and pre-ordered the book.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or 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 by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

My Thoughts:

What you need to know is that for myself and many other black people in this country we are thrilled when we see people that look like us making big achievements and contributions to this country. Because, so often, we read about our history and it is filled with slavery and then there’s a big gap and then there’s present day. It’s as if we’ve never contributed anything to this country that we went from slaves to free people and then that was it. We also are inundated with news reports today with the imagery of black America in a one dimensional perspective (usually committing a crime) and bypassing any major contributions. So when I heard about this book and this movie I wanted to know more. I couldn’t believe how many black woman were working in these major establishments.   Because up until this book, with the exception of a handful of astronauts from the early 80s into the 2000s,  I never knew of all of the black woman who were working hard behind the scenes to make these endeavors possible. Because the most common images I’ve always seen from NASA was a room filled with white man in white shirts with black ties staring at monitors sans any diversity.

Let’s remember also this book takes place during the 30s 40s 50s and up into about the 1970s. So to hear about achievement of this magnitude by black women during this time seems unheard of to me. But that wasn’t the case. They were black women that despite segregation and all of the racism that was taking place here in this country, that pursued high level degrees in science and mathematics  (with teaching as a back up), that went on to work and NACA and NASA to contribute to aeronautics and flight into our space program. These women managed to pursue their mathematical and scientific degrees and secure jobs at NACA as computers, mathematicians, and scientists.

It was during World War II when the country was really trying to bolster it’s space program in order to compete, defeat and exceed the Russian space program that the doors became open to anyone and everyone who could help meet this goal.  What’s interesting is that the drive was so strong that all of the internal issues that was going on in the United States in terms of race relations and segregation residuals of slavery were eventually put to the side to achieve this goal. This is not to say that it was without difficulties and there was segregation at the workplace. But as their collegeaus began to see how devoted and talented these women were, they began to request them on more and more projects. John Glenn, one of our most famous astronaut, specifically requested Katherine Johnson (one of the women highlighted in this book) to run the numbers and computations to ensure a successful flight into space. By this time, actual computers (machines) were introduced but he was that sure of her ability that he placed his life into her hands.

All this said, I went into the book with a lot of anticipation and excitement. I even recommended it to my book club which is surprisingly they accepted. I got home and I just dove into the book. Although I managed to learn a great deal about the contributions and the struggles that these women faced leading up to their employment, the structure of the book made me put it down often.

The problem for me was that the book weighs heavy on facts and information and less about the story of the women. I had to read 80 pages before I even got into some sort of story and introduction to some of the ladies. My desire to read this book and learn might not be the same as others so readers might ditch the book before getting to the point where the women’s stories begins. Even after the stories begins, Shetterly didn’t quite integrate the story with the data so there are long periods of facts and technical information then stories about the women. It made for a harder read for.

In all fairness, coming off the election emotions, might have tainted my view or tolerance for this format a bit. Perhaps a different time, might have made a difference. But I do recommend this book even with the format she chose to use to tell the story. Because it is an important part of our history and also a game-changer for some young children of color to find more role models in the fields of mathematics and science.

I give this book 3 1/2 butterflies and I can’t wait to see the movie!




12 Years a Slave


Hello Everyone! Happy Monday!  Wow, I know I should be worried about the warm weather we are having on the first day of February but I can’t help but smile every time I have gone outside today.  I know winter is coming for real soon so I will cherish this warm sunshine.

Today is the start of Black History Month and I am so excited that due to the ‘leap’ we get an extra day (29 instead of 28)! So one extra day to explore more in Black History. Of course we have the whole year, but this time of year, there are often more special events to attend so it’s quite fun.

I kicked off my discoveries on Saturday and watched, “12 Years a Slave“, a historical drama adaptation of an 1853 slave narrative memoir  (12 Years a Slave) written by Solomon Northup.


The movie:

“Maybe it had to take a British filmmaker to depict clearly the United States’ greatest failing: the horrors of centuries of slavery. In 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kinky Boots, Dirty Pretty Things) is a free man living in New York until he’s kidnapped and sold in Louisiana as a slave. He’s owned by masters relatively kind (Benedict Cumberbatch) and harrowingly brutal (Michael Fassbender), but even under the best conditions, the movie never loses sight of Northup’s condition as property, that his well-being and very life are at the whim of his owners. There’s no hype here, nor any hemming or hawing; each scene is captured simply but vividly, letting the cruel facts of life in the pre-Civil War era speak for themselves. The movie’s power lies in the unsettling details and psychological contortions slavery inflicts on everyone involved, black and white. Performances are fantastic throughout, including supporting work from Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, and particularly Alfre Woodard as a slave who’s gained a position of comfort and clings to it with haughty entitlement. But it’s Ejiofor who anchors the movie; his mix of intelligence and fundamental decency carries 12 Years a Slave to a moving conclusion. From Steve McQueen, director of Hunger andShame.” —Bret Fetzer (

The director:

Steve McQueen, an English film director, producer, screenwriter, and video artist directed this 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave, a historical drama adaptation of an 1853 slave narrative memoir. He he won an Academy Award, BAFTA Award for Best Film, and Golden Globe Award or Best Motion Picture – Drama, as a producer, and he also received the award for best director from the New York Film Critics Circle. McQueen is the first black filmmaker to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Movie:

The movie was so powerful. I just knew going into it that I was going to be moved deeply. The idea of slavery is so difficult to process but then to add the fact that Solomon was born and lived free for 30 years before this happened to him. How does one even begin to comprehend what he must have felt? I mean really? The locations they shot the movie brought you right into the story. The casting was spot on and I couldn’t take my eyes off it despite the difficult content.

The actors:

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s depiction as Solomon Northup was spot on. He was perfect for the role and you could see him transform infront of your eyes as he immersed himself into his potrayal. Some scenes you knew everything simply from looking at his eyes.

Benedict Cumberbach portrayed one of Solomon’s master’s and although I am used to him portrayed as a villain like he did in the 2013 Star Trek Into the Darkness, it was easy for me to accept him as the slave master but he was a more complex character. He had a strange fondness for Solomon and the movie allowed you to witness the conflicts he had with owning Solomon and securing his debt.

Michael Fassbender portrayed another of Solomon’s slave master and I found myself turning from the screen from time to time while witnessing his brutality.

Lupita Nyong’o potrayal of Patsey, a slave that works alongside of Solomon was amazing. In 2013 she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Nyong’o is the first Kenyan actress and the first Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.  In 2014, she was named The Most Beautiful Woman by People and Women of the Year by Glamour.

Brad Pitt who helped to produce the film as well as star in the film as Samuel Bass, the Canadian man that eventually helps Northup to secure his freedom.

Alfreda Woodward, as a mistress that resides herself to find comfort in the position she holds. I always enjoy her performances and although brief in this film, she represented another aspect of slavery that must be acknowledged.

There were many more actors that gave stellar performances throughout this film.

My thoughts:

I knew going into this film, I was going to be moved to tears. But one thing I realized once the movie ended is that I finally took a deep breath. I felt like I was holding it in so frequently and my face held no secrets to the sadness and anger I felt while watching this film. I just never understand how people could treat other people this way.  But despite my knowledge, I felt this was an important story to add to the many. We must be uncomfortable sometimes to move ourselves to the next space.

The amazing fact that although during this time period, there were nearly 100 slave narratives written or dictated only Solomon Northup’s was published. Which makes the case even stronger why it should be a required reading as well as viewing of the film.

My message to you is if you haven’t watched it, rent or buy it and watch it then tell someone else. It is important for us all to see. It not just black people because we must all jump into the depths and many dimensions of slavery to set us free today. It is not to be buried or filed away but revisited to remind us what humans are capable of and to establish what we will not allow moving forward for all.

If you’ve seen the movie, let me know what you think?

I wish for you a great Black History Month.


Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.!!

“Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the staircase.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King!  This morning during breakfast, I played for the boys Stevie Wonder’s song ‘Happy Birthday‘ that he wrote and produced in 1981 when he was campaigning to get Martin Luther King’s birthday declared a national holiday.

Growing up,  I  remember my mother used to play this song on his birthday every year and we would dance around to it. It became a tradition in our home.  So I thought this year I would introduces the boys to the fun.  Nicholas took to it fast and danced with me in the kitchen.

Today is a very special day for us all and I am truly grateful for the changes that came about as a result of all his and many other’s efforts.

When the boys get home from school today we will complete some coloring pages of Martin to hang around the house. I included a link to the pages below.

I have included a few links for more information on this amazing man:

Have a blessed day!




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