Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

Almost Astronauts is about 13 women who in the 1960s underwent the same tests that the Mercury astronauts did, but because they were women they were denied entry into NASA’s space program. It is about the women who were pioneers in the movement to get women into space.

What I appreciated most about Stone’s book is that she has a wealth of evidence to back up her argument – that sexism and sexist societal norms prevented qualified women from entering space. I valued the obvious depth of research because Stone isn’t writing in the usual detached non-fiction one usually picks up. Instead, this is an impassioned book where the author’s voice often intrudes into the narrative. When discussing an article which portrayed the ‘ideal’ female astronaut as married with a masculine body type, Stone asks “would anyone ever suggest that a male astronaut ought to be a married man with little sex appeal?” Stone also often answers her questions, in this case with a “No. He would not.”

I can see how this obvious belief in her viewpoint might grate, I can see others questioning her impartiality in building her case (did she only gather information that supported her viewpoint, many may ask). To this I can only say - have you taken a look at her sources listed in the back of the book? Impressive to say the least, the evidence in this case certainly seems to back up her position.

Her passion for her subject made this an extremely compelling read. It was truly fascinating and the pictures that were included were excellent and always complemented the text. Not to mention that there was a nice variety ranging from vintage military posters to photos of the women undergoing testing, to magazine articles, to other primary documents such as Lyndon B. Johnson’s opinion on a female space program (oy!).

I thought Stone clearly took this particular story and placed it into a greater societal context. She showed how these women’s experiences did not occur in a vacuum, how they fit into the women’s movement as a whole, and what came after.

I enjoyed this book very much and found it to be a well-written and persuasive piece of non-fiction.


Book Source: Tayshas Review Copy - ARC

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