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Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 40 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman, is a brief look at the extraordinary lives of these brilliant mathematicians — Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dr. Christine Darden. My daughter and I read this book together and were learning a great deal about not only the role of math in the building of airplanes and spacecraft, but also the history of the time when segregation still existed and women were not allowed in meetings or even on scientific teams.

In one illustration, my daughter commented about the separate water fountains and noted that the one for “coloreds” looked more like a toilet with a spout than a water fountain. I think this was her interpretation of the differences between those facilities and she was taken aback at how awful just that aspect was. Kids are far smarter than adults sometimes.

As we read, we looked up the real women on the internet to check out more of their accomplishments and look at the projects they worked on, and my daughter was particularly interested in the wind tunnels that Mary Jackson worked with. I think it was because the visual of the giant fan behind Jackson and her team didn’t demonstrate the airplane models being tested. The internet helped with that.

While we loved the illustrations and how vivid they are, we wondered about the earrings the ladies wore — stars, planets, moons — were these accurate to their daily accessories or just a nod to their role in the space race? My daughter also loves learning about the landing on the moon and what was said, and the biographies in the back about each woman was fantastic because we learned more about each of them, though we were saddened to learn that only one of them is still alive, as Katherine Johnson passed away in 2020.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman, is a delightful introduction to these stellar women and their accomplishments against all odds — racism and sexism. This generated some great discussion with my daughter and since she loves history, it was a great read for us.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. She is also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists, and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. She is a Hampton, Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. She currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.

About the Illustrator:

Laura Freeman is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree. Her work on “Hidden Figures” written by Margot Lee Shetterly, was recognized with an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children, reached the New York Times Best Seller list and was listed as one of “Ten Books All Georgians Should Read”. Her art has been honored at the Society of Illustrators in NYC and in the Annuals for Communication Arts and American Illustration.

Mailbox Monday #654

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Kaddish by Jane Yolen for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited in a time of deep sorrow. In it, the sacredness of the Almighty One is affirmed. In her new gathering of sixty poems, award-winning author Jane Yolen gives us a feminist view of Biblical themes and personalities such as Eve, Sarah, David and Goliath. The poems then morph into those about the Holocaust and after. Yolen’s unflinching and stark record of the many death camp horrors serve as reminders of that era’s brutality and the unrelenting suffering visited upon an innocent people. “Knowing means remembrance,” Yolen writes–as each poem becomes a memorial, a teaching, a warning for our and future generations. Her book concludes: “… no Jew truly escapes/that time, those places,/unscarred, unscathed./I have no numbers on my arms,/But I have studied the charts,/the cities, the deaths,/till I know them by heart.”

Inheritance of Aging Self by Lucinda Marshall, which I purchased.

Lucinda Marshall’s debut poetry collection, Inheritance Of Aging Self, explores our inherited understanding and experience of illness, death, grief, and sense of place.

In poems that she began to write during the final years of her parents’ lives, Lucinda Marshall’s debut poetry collection, Inheritance Of Aging Self, is an exploration of aging, illness, and death, as we witness them in the lives of our elders and loved ones, of grieving and ultimately the impact this heritage has on our sense of identity and place as we in turn age.

The title poem of the collection was included in the Maryland State Arts Council’s “Identity” exhibit in 2021 and “Winter Beach” was the first-place winner in Montgomery Magazine’s 2019 “Montgomery Writes” contest.

When Your Wife has Tommy John Surgery by E. Ethelbert Miller for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Much-honored Washington, D.C. poet activist E. Ethelbert Miller delights and surprises us with his deft imaginings and portraits. Ethelbert’s poems play out in baseball rhythm and express the joy of living, despite the bitter challenges in today’s world. These poems define our time and allow us to see ourselves as human through the lens of baseball, family and music.

When Your Wife Has Tommy John Surgery and Other Baseball Stories is Miller’s second book of baseball poems. Here he touches new bases. There are poems about Marcel Duchamp and Ornette Coleman as well as Whitey Ford and Don Larsen. Miller’s poems move the outdoor game indoors where there are moments of disappointment and despair. Baseball can be a blues game. Tommy John surgery is a way of holding onto hope. Many of these poems were written during the Covid pandemic. They beckon fans back to the ballpark. They remind us to enjoy a game that is precious  and maybe even essential to our wellness. Coming after If God Invented Baseball, Miller seems to emerge from a literary dugout after a brief rain delay, ready to celebrate the American pastime again.

What did you receive?

Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King

Source: Poet
Paperback, 40 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a powerful chapbook that tackles fatherhood, family demons and traumas, and finds the bright light in the darkness. What King always does well in his verse is to find the hope even in the darkest moments.

In the opening poem, “In Your Dreams,” the young man is dodging not only physical blows from his father and trying to sway away from his emotional jabs. He reminds us that those traumas are the past and in our reliving of them, we can change the ending and manifest that in our own, true lives. King uses these boxing metaphors in a few of the poems and it serves as a way to remind us that life is not a straight line journey from point A to point B — there are a lot of curves and turns along the way.

When the chapbook shifts to his own journey as a father, the light of hope shines brightest. I absolutely loved “The Light Inside.” It’s such a beautiful poem in which the poet is watched as he contemplates “the country of fatherhood,/where experience alone won’t grant you citizenship.//” He’s folding onesies and waiting for his daughter to arrive where “Everything hangs, waiting for you to fill them/the way your mom and I waited for you//” and “patience is the currency/of anything worth having.//”

Parenthood is a tough state but absolutely worth it for those committed to doing it and nurturing young life. And yes, like King says, “parenting is like gardening.” But in that effort, we also have to tend to our own scars and past traumas so that they don’t poorly influence how we tend our own gardens. Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a love letter to his family, his children, and his own past, as he moves forward as a father and a more whole human being. Love and hope are in every corner of this collection, and there is a push for more out of life and a recognition of simplicity, beauty, and importance.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, who lives with his family in Bowie, MD. He writes about art and domestic issues on this blog. He’s a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal.

King is the author of POINT BLANK (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and DRIFT (Aquarius Press, 2012). King’s honors include fellowships from Cave (cah-veh) Canem (cah-nem) and Voices of Our Nations Arts (VONA) Foundation, three Pushcart Prize nominations as well as three nominations for Best of the Net selection.

He’s a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. His poems and short stories appear in various literary journals, magazines and are featured on public radio. Visit his website, Facebook, Twitter, and on YouTube.

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc

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Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen (audio)

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Mailbox Monday #653

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it. It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and […]

Riffs & Improvisations by Gregory Luce

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Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun

Source: Publisher Paperback, 228 pgs. I am an Amazon Affiliate Blue Window/Ventana Azul by Indran Amirthanayagam, translated by Jennifer Rathbun, is a bilingual collection of love poems in Spanish and English that touches the passionate hearts of us all. It is a love letter to lovers, friends, ourselves, and human kind. Amirthanayagam opens the collection […]