Hidden Figures Book, Movie Tell Two Different Stories

For the first time, the One Book One School (OBOS) is a selection for the entire Lenape Regional district, not just Cherokee High School. Now, every student votes in the district to read the same book over the summer, which has become a great way to give the entire students body something in common.   This also results in assessments on the reading once school begins.  This year, between Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, the students voted for Hidden Figures.

The trailers for the Hidden Figures movie looked good, so I was expecting to enjoy reading the biography. However, I was let down. The trailer made the book seem that it would be about three women who worked at NASA during the space race. In actuality, the book is about many women who worked at NACA and NASA from WWII to 1969. This book is a textbook disguised as a literary biography. The author goes into extensive details about the entire history of aeronautics and space-travel, and the entire civil rights movement, while the parts that were actually about the characters were long-winded backstories. When the characters actually joined their jobs, the narration of their lives became sparse. There was a lot of history and not a lot of story. The book is about 240 pages long, and it took 200 pages to get into any anything about space or NASA. I think the book could have been cut down and made into a more narrative-like style.

If you want to learn about this story, I recommend that you pick either the book or the movie, not both. They are wildly different and tell almost a completely different story. The movie did not contain any of the backstory for the characters and associated plot points that didn’t even happen at the same time. It focused on the three women instead of their collective effort, and fabricated some of the events. In the movie the characters acted in ways that they would never have done in the book, which was probably done to make the movie more suspenseful and interesting. The movie’s content consisted of information in pages 200-220 of the book, which only discussed the women’s involvement with NASA.  Even so, it only focused on the Mercury missions without showing the Apollo missions. If I had not read the book, I would not have known how inaccurate the movie was, and maybe I would have enjoyed it more. The movie seems like it would be enjoyable to those who had not read the book. I feel, however, if you don’t read the book, you won’t really know whats going on.

If you want to know the real (and really long) story behind Hidden Figures, then I recommend reading the book. If you just want to see a summed up (and slightly inaccurate) version, then the movie is great for you. The book had too much information, and the movie didn’t have enough. If there was a version that was in between these two, then I think this story would be very interesting and enjoyable.