On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.
Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
Lady Astronauts was all I needed to know to be interested in this story. As I was reading, I kept getting Hidden Figures (the movie) vibes. Come to find out that she wrote this before that and was totally stoked when it came out.
“What I’d come to realize is that, with kids like these, it was less about me and more about elevating them-not becasuse it was me, but becasue I was something out of the ordinary.”
I thought this book was so interesting. I just couldn’t put it down. I wanted to be reading it all of the time. I thought Elma was such a sassy and interesting main character. She’s got the southern charm that had me cackling in those moments that she translated things (if you’ve read this you know what I mean). I loved that she acknowledged her privilege and that despite being a white Jewish woman, that she still lived a pretty good life compared to some others during the time period. I also loved that she fought to change those sorts of things. She fought to allow women of all races to be able to train and become astronauts because they were qualified. I also totally loved her relationship with her husband. I thought there were going to be a few moments where she keeps things to herself (the miscommunication / lack of communication trope). But it doesn’t happen! She tells him! And communicates! And I loved it! They were honestly the cutest freaking couple. He was so supportive and did whatever he could to help Elma. I adored them together. Plus, who doesn’t love sexy rocket talk?
“Funny how seeing your goal made manifest can change things.”
I think this book did a really good job of bringing up conversations that are hard, but necessary. It acknowledges that Elma is privileged compared to others and that she may not have even noticed that privilege until she becomes friends that aren’t treated the same as she is. There are a lot of discrimination that is fought and I thought it was handled well.
“You’d think that at some point the grief would stop. I put my hand over my mouth and leaned forward, as if I could somehow fold over the pain and keep it from escaping into the world again.”
The space and science talk were honestly so interesting. It wasn’t too complicated but it was all legitimate and mostly historically true. There’s also extensive conversation about anxiety and I thought the representation there was so good and might have even made me a little anxious while reading it. I thought this was handled so well even going as far as a doctor telling Elma that this is an illness and it’s not just ‘nerves’ or whatever they would have said in the fifties.
“Wanting something isn’t enough by itself.”
Overall, I just adored this story. The characters were compelling and had me invested in the story. There was great representation and conversations. I cannot wait to read the sequel. I might have to go out and buy it since there’s at least a six month wait from my library.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.