By Kim Roth
Hidden Figures is a currently playing movie based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly of the same title. The movie follows three African-American mathematicians, Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson, who worked as computer scientists during the race to manned space flight at Langley in Virginia during the 1960s. It is a story of friendship, love, the space race, and living as an African-American woman during segregation. The story is compelling and the accompanying music is great.
For me, as a mathematician, hearing the math was exciting. As a person who knows that racism and segregation have made the lives of African-Americans harder but was not alive during the era of segregation, seeing segregation’s effect on these women’s careers was sad and eye-opening. My eleven-year-old daughter enjoyed the story of the space race and the women, but was shocked to find out that segregation portrayed in the movie was historically accurate, which is a sign that her social studies classes and us need to talk about it more. Go and see it at the Clifton 5 where it is currently showing!
Watch the Trailer Here
Frances Burney d’Arblay (1752-1840) was one of the most important influences on Jane Austen, and if you are an Austenite, you should know her!
“Fanny” Burney (yes, I know – but “Fanny” was a very common nickname for Frances until quite recently) was the daughter of a well-known composer, Charles Burney, and was for a short time during her life the Mistress of the Robes for the Queen of England. She married a French aristocrat in exile in 1793, with whom she had one child.
Fanny Burney’s novels are much longer than Austen’s, but if you read them you’ll discover that she has many of the same qualities that endear Austen to us: a realistic and sometimes acid treatment of the way that society forced young women into prescribed roles; an enjoyment of ridiculous characters; and witty dialogue that is sparkling despite its eighteenth-century language.
Which should you read first? Burney’s most famous work is Evelina (1778), which she wrote incognito, and which gained her a very popular readership. Cecilia came next, in 1782; its improbable story is about the way the demands of family can keep apart people who are devoted to one another. To my mind, the best of her novels is Camilla (1796), in which she lampooned the personalities of upper-class people. Camilla is my favorite because of its ridiculous supporting characters, its absolutely ruthless portrayals of social climbing, and the title character’s determination to do right and see it all through.
Interested? You can get Fanny Burney’s complete novels on Amazon for 99 cents.
To read more about her from the Burney Society at McGill University, click here.