Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (recommended by Christine Aden, Leisure Collection)
Do you know of the black female mathematicians who helped propel the United States to outer space? If you’ve seen the movie based upon Hidden Figures, you know of a few of the women. (But be aware, some of the movie characters are composites of several women!) The author, Margot Shetterly, grew up in Hampton, Virginia, knowing some of these women as neighbors or acquaintances who worked at NASA, but it wasn’t until a chance comment by a friend on a visit home exposed to her just how many of them worked in integral, intellectual roles. After all, their work was classified, and the historic photos show primarily white males working at NASA! Think about that. Shetterly grew up knowing them, and still did not know the role they played in the space race. Shetterly masterfully provides historical context with the women’s personal lives and their career achievements.
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (recommended by Anne Earel, Leisure Collection)
Underground Airlines presents a dystopian present-day world whose little details will feel familiar: technology is ubiquitous, but the best place for pancakes is still the family-owned diner off the highway. But in this world, the Civil War never happened. Slavery is not illegal everywhere in the United States; left to their own “states’-rights” devices, four states continue the practice. The Underground Railroad has morphed into the Underground Airlines; like its namesake, it is less an actual “airline” than the complicated mechanism by which slaves escape north to freedom from the “Hard Four” slave states. How can slavery exist in a world in which everyone – even those in the predominately anti-slavery northern states – know about its stark realities via social and mass media? What happens when everyone just accepts slavery as “normal,” and what might this mean for our understanding of our own reality?
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (recommended by Stefanie Bluemle, Leisure Collection)
An acclaimed director is deposed from his leadership role at a major Shakespeare festival. Angry and bitter, he goes to live (and sulk) in a run-down shack in the Canadian countryside. A few years later he reenters the theater world by signing up to direct Shakespeare plays inside a prison. Before long, his new job gives him the perfect opportunity to take revenge on the people who ruined his career.
Does the plot sound vaguely familiar? Hag-Seed is Margaret Atwood’s retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If you love Shakespeare, and The Tempest in particular, you’ll enjoy this multi-layered reinterpretation. Not a Shakespeare fan? Give this book a try! It’s fast-moving and up-to-date, and it shows how relevant Shakespeare remains even now, more than 400 years after his plays were first performed.