NONFICTION

To Fly Among the Stars: The Hidden Story of the Fight for Women Astronauts

Scholastic Focus. Mar. 2020. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338290158.
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Gr 8 Up–Male and female aviators of the 20th century were setting records and banking flight hours, but career opportunities were often reserved for white men. The origins of the U.S. space program were no different; despite highly qualified women who successfully completed training, NASA chose seven white men to undertake the first journeys to space. Siegel parallels the experiences of the contenders, comparing abilities, training results, and actual missions to clearly show the program’s gender bias. Siegel notes, “It wasn’t enough for a woman pilot to simply be talented in the 1950s and 1960s. If she wanted to get work, good work, she had to be savvy, too.” Women aviators hoping to become test pilots were subjected to judgments of their physical appearance, their likability, and their overall adherence to feminine norms. The highly detailed research, from the descriptions of an early airplane flight to the feeling of simulated weightlessness during astronaut training, forms a powerful collection of knowledge about the space program and the first astronauts, but is not as strong a resource about the women specifically. Readers would be better served by Tanya Lee Stone’s Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream. Siegel’s writing style is more conversational than formal, which occasionally distracts from the seriousness of the information.
VERDICT A quality work that tells the stories of the first men and women of the U.S. space program, but neglects to put the women in the spotlight.

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