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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Accuracy or Agenda?

In a couple of posts commenters have raised issues about Almost Astronauts.  The book’s editor, Marc Aronson, challenges readers to bring objections to his blog, but no one has yet.  Though some of our commenters mentioned "inaccuracies" and "questionable sources"…this real gist of the issue seems to be about "slant" or "propoganda" in Stone’s text.

One commenter mentions checking out historian Roger Launius’ comments, which I eventually found on Amazon attaced as a customer review to one of Stone’s sources, Stephanie Nolen’s Promised the Moon. I also found James Oberg’s 2007 article helpful in synthesizing some of the disgruntlement over Nolen and Ackmann’s books, which Stone uses as sources.

Not having read Stone’s sources completely, the thing I find interesting about complaints lodged at Stone’s book, referencing this debate, is that the story as Launius and Oberg attempt to set it out is as Stone sets it out as well. Stone just has a different angle.  Commenter’s question Stone’s sources, probably because she relies heavily on the books Launius condemns; but she also uses Weitenkamp’s The Right Stuff: The Wrong Sex, which Lanius calls the "authoritative work on this subject."

In reading over the arguments to Stone’s sources, it seems to me that the arguments lodged at Stone are partly borne of the agenda of this older debate.  

This is not to say that Stone doesn’t clearly take a position; but I think the "facts" are very clearly laid out in her book, and in fact the dramatic tone that she takes–which so many detractors seem to have a problem with–helps identify her narrative as a perspective, a point of view. 

One of my colleagues takes issue with her tone for a different reason: the story is compelling enough, she says. Stone doesn’t need to hit us over the head with it.  While I occasionally found myself wishing Stone would turn it down just a notch, I really appreciated her style.   One can just lay facts "out bare" in a way that suggests objectivity, while being no less subjective than Stone is.  Look at Oberg’s article, where he lists "Truth #1, #2" etc…. but under those "historical facts" mixes in claims: probably extremely reasonable and justified, but claims nonetheless.  Compare to Stone, p.55, where she lays out "the bare facts: Domino number one, Domino number two"…then says:  "This explanation is clear, simple, straightforward–and fairly meaningless." And then goes on to make her claims, also reasonable and justified.  Stone is saying: "here’s the ‘facts’, and here’s my interpretation of them." Oberg says simply "here’s the truth."

Stone says on p.50:
"Organizations do not like to be told that they are wrong, that they have left out qualified people, that they need to change."

And that’s apt here.  Launius’ (a curator for NASA) and Oberg’s (a veteran of NASA’s mission control)comments are very helpful in giving perspective to Stone’s book, and I’m not taking issue with them at all since they’re taking on books that I haven’t read.  I just find that applying their arguments to Stone doesn’t completey hold…and, in fact, just reveals a different agenda. 

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Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at ninalindsay@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    The problem that I have with James Oberg is that, from his Amazon customer comment, it’s painfully obvious that he has not read Stone’s book. He implies that she makes claims that she does not make. Shame! He so desperately wants this to be a history of NASA rather than these 13 women that are the focus of the story.

  2. marc says:

    Nina:

    Thanks for laying out the issues here. Tone: I again remind readers that we all loved We Are the Ship in good part because of its engaged tone — the sense it which it made history matter. Engagement has it dangers, and can be annoying. But I think it also shows readers what dog the author has in the fight, and invites them to care too — to see history as important not dead. The question is, once the author shows his or her hand, is that author then fair — willing to go where the best facts, sources, and experts lead. And I insist that Tanya was entirely fair. One small example: her villain is a woman, in fact one of the pioneer great female aviators. If her goal was to “empower” women at all costs, why would she do that? Why, because that is where good research led her.

  3. Jane says:

    I’ll admit right off, the tone in Stone’s book is too strident for my taste. However, I continue to be bothered by the presentation of opinion/conjecture as “fact.” Nina cites pg. 55 –domino 1, 2,3, etc. But the question should be asked, why are those facts meaningless? Because they aren’t convenient to the narrative of victimized women? Stone states “But that does not explain how Pirie came to know of the impending tests …” clearly implying some nefarious plot to stop the testing. That would be Ok if she had found evidence of a plot. That would be Ok if her sources delved into Pirie’s side of the story (or NASA’s) rather than take the leap she did with no sources to support her assertion.

    And by sources, it’s important to note there are precious few primary sources used here. In fact, the only primary sources were from the ladies, clearly with an agenda. (That’s OK, but is it good nonfiction? Is it fair to the reader?)

    It is intellectually dishonest for Stone to conclude, not as a possibility, but as a hard and fast fact on pg. 63 that “It was prejudice–against women, African Americans … that had kept women on the ground.” This is called hearsay. There is no documentation cited (whether any exists I cannot tell) that proves such a conversation took place. Cobb relays that was the conversation that took place. Was there a tape recorder? Notes? Other people (not including Hart) present who could corroborate this claim? Does Cobb have an agenda? Where’s the proof? Pretty strong accusation with zero proof. (So why not float it as a hypothesis, rather than stating point blank it’s a fact?)

    Same is true with the “damning” evidence “Let’s stop this now.” If Stone were to have presented this letter and presented her interpretation of it as a reasonable explanation, that’s one thing. Instead, she acts as a mind-reader and says without doubt what Johnson was thinking when those words were written.

    I disagree that Stone was fair. Its kind of like Fox News saying they’re fair and balanced. Just come right out and say you have an agenda. This is a story with many angles and she chooses to show only one. That’s fine. But don’t claim to be telling the whole, true story when you didn’t bother to research the other side/s.

  4. a teacher says:

    Oberg’s comments, whether he’s read the book or not (which I don’t think it’s “painfully obvious” he hasn’t), definitely should hold weight here, because it calls into question Stone’s entire “agenda” and theme of ALMOST ASTRONAUTS.

    Stone may not have come out and specifically stated things that Oberg implies, but she doesn’t need to. It’s “painfully obvious” that Stone has an agenda with this book, and Oberg is calling into question that agenda. Rightfully so, in my opinion.

    What I took away from ALMOST ASTRONAUTS was that these women were not given a fair shake at becoming pilots. However that is not the case. Stone carefully chose which sources to cite and which information to include so it would seem like these women were not given a fair shake. That bothers me when discussing this book as a Newbery possibility. There’s better nonfiction out there, that doesn’t twist and contort its theme.

  5. a teacher says:

    Jane: “And by sources, it’s important to note there are precious few primary sources used here. In fact, the only primary sources were from the ladies, clearly with an agenda. (That’s OK, but is it good nonfiction? Is it fair to the reader?)”

    Exactly! And furthermore, is it good for discussion about Newbery worthiness.

    “Interpretation of theme” anyone?

  6. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Oberg implies that Stone claims that these women (a) trained for space, (b) worked for NASA, and (c) were top secret. I don’t see how anybody could read Stone’s book and believe those things. Hence, I infer that he has not read the book.

    This *is* a story with many angles, and I don’t think Stone shows only one angle as much as she *focuses* on one angle. I’m not sure that she ever pretended to be telling the whole, true story, nor do I think that she did not research the other side.

  7. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I disagree with your comment about primary sources. Obviously, Stone’s narrative is informed by modern communication with these women (who are looking back at these events over a distance of time), but she also cites many news sources that were contemporary to that time, and also includes photographs (which in and of themselves are primary sources). Do all of these sources focus on these thirteen women? Yes (but we would expect them to given that it’s their story). Exclusively? No.

    Clearly the conversation between Cobb and LBJ is hearsay, and Stone presents the context of it so that readers can draw their own conclusions, although she herself chooses to believe Cobb (and explains her reasons for doing so). So if something is not videotaped, audiotaped, or witnesses in person, than it never happened?

  8. Anonymous says:

    NASA has about as much right to have their viewpoint represented in ALMOST ASTRONAUTS as Indians do to be represented in A SEASON OF GIFTS and YEARS OF DUST, which is to say, very little indeed.

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Hmmm. You could say that ALMOST ASTRONAUTS has a role reversal. The NASA viewpoint is typically the dominant one, while the women is the minority viewpoint. In this book the women are the dominant viewpoint and NASA the minority one. So, I guess, in that respect you can liken it to the YEARS OF DUST debate.

  10. Jane says:

    But here’s the thing, Jonathan, she does make those claims (albeit certainly stating it was an independent program):
    a) trained for space: pg 14 “Here were the men with air force and NASA affiliations wanting to know if she would be their first subject for female astronaut training.”
    -this also fudges the ‘worked for NASA’ with “NASA affiliations” — many readers, certainly not most kids, would know to make the distinction. Also, pg. 16 “Astronaut testing, phase one.”
    c) top secret: pg. 15 “the idea was to keep their activities quiet” pg. 16 ” Don’t tell anyone what they were doing” “In secret, she became the first.

    So, yes, readers can (and I think that was Stone’s intention) walk away with the impression that these ladies trained to be astronauts, in top secret, for NASA. (Almost Astronauts is the title. They weren’t almost astronauts. They were wannabe astronauts — as were many others.)

    Also, of course the lack of a tape recorder doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But that’s my point. As a researcher and a writer (especially for children) the author has an obligation to make it clear to the reader what is fact and what is opinion (based on research ,etc.) In that section, she does not let the reader make up his/her mind. She states hearsay as fact. And I think that’s wrong for nonfiction.

    Anonymous, A Season of Gifts is fiction — same rules don’t apply.

    Maybe that’s my biggest objection. The classification. Maybe books like this need a new designation a la Hollywood: Based on True Events.

  11. a teacher says:

    Jonathan: “Oberg implies that Stone claims that these women (a) trained for space, (b) worked for NASA, and (c) were top secret. I don’t see how anybody could read Stone’s book and believe those things. Hence, I infer that he has not read the book.”

    I think you have misread Oberg’s comments. He never implies that Stone claimed these things. He was simply stating them

    I guess my biggest gripe with the book, is that after seeing arguments on both sides, I don’t find Stone’s story all that compelling. Were women treated unfairly in our country in the past? Yes. Of course. Is this a good example of an instance where that gender inequality was on display? I don’t think so.

    NASA was looking for pilots that were highly trained and ready for space exploration. These women were not. That’s all Oberg is saying. End of story.

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, but stating these things in the comments to Stone’s book implies that the book claims those things. Come on! Surely, you can see that.

    Of course, those women weren’t qualified by the same standards that the men were, but why not put them through the training (jet pilot flying) so that they could be. Do you think the woman the Russians sent into space was as qualified as the American men? Probably not, but not even nationalism could budge sexism out of the way.

  13. a teacher says:

    Jonathan: “Of course, those women weren’t qualified by the same standards that the men were, but why not put them through the training (jet pilot flying) so that they could be.”

    That’s a great idea but it’s beside the point. That might be what Stone is thinking as well, but that’s not what she’s trying to present. This is a work of nonfiction, not an opinion piece. I wouldn’t have had a problem with Stone coming out and saying “I think these women should’ve been sent to the moon whether they were better than the men astronauts or not and here’s why I think that way.”

    Instead, she used “facts” and “statistics” to show how these women were wronged and in doing so, ignored (or left out) the “facts” and “statistics” that showed how these women just simply weren’t good enough at that point in time for a mission of this magnitude.

    I think she writes with an incredible amount of passion but the way she presents this story is potentially misleading to the real story and in turn, doesn’t make it’s presentation of theme “distinguished” enough to discuss for the Newbery.

  14. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I think ALMOST ASTRONAUTS is certainly worthy enough to *discuss* for the Newbery. Is it worthy enough to Medal or Honor? Those are different questions, and I suspect that answer may have more to do with CLAUDETTE COLVIN, MARCHING FOR FREEDOM, and CHARLES AND EMMA than the reservations that we have listed here.

  15. Nina. says:

    “a teacher”: it’s exactly your statement “end of story” that DOES make Stone’s story compelling. There is another side to this story. Since when can nonfiction not be an opinion piece?

    I’m interested in the debate on the fine line…picking apart Stone’s exact wording and debating whether she adequately substantiates these as claims. I think she does (but I want to look at Jane’s quotes closer). It was always clear to me as a reader that Lovelace’s program was a separate thing, that this was NOT astronaut training. I think it will be clear to young readers too.

    I DO find the chapter headings, the flap copy, and the title overly suggestive to the point of being slightly misleading…but then as soon as you actually read the story it’s clear what’s going on.

    An argument that I keep hearing is that Stone “twists” the story to suggest that NASA never gave these women a fair chance. What I get from Stone’s story is that *institutionalized* sexism is what caused the problem. NASA had rule about Astronauts having been jet pilots for a good reason. But the sexism that denied women the opportunity to become jet pilots therefore also denied them from becoming Astronauts, *whether or not they might actually have been capable*. THATs what Lovelace and the 13 were about, that’s what Stone’s book is about.

  16. faith says:

    Whether or not Stone presents facts accurately in her book, I believe the tenor of her writing obscures the facts and is misleading. That an adult sees that this was not a NASA program and that these women weren’t in any real sense “almost astronauts” doesn’t assure me that children reading it would come to the same conclusion. I think they wouldn’t. I think they are far more likely to follow the emotion of the argument.

    It’s the emotion and the bad writing that conveys the emotion, that I object to in Almost Astronauts.

    “But if she were to turn to glance at the group of women on the observation bleachers behind her, you would see the lines of time etched on her face. You would see a smile tinged with sadness.”

    I read that and I thought, Good Heavens, she’ll be talking about sparkly abdominal muscles next.

  17. Fred Bortz says:

    Here’s what I said about the controversy in my 5-star review of Almost Astronauts at Amazon.com. I called it a positive review that agrees with a negative one. I think it adds to this discussion as well.

    Jim Oberg’s negative review makes some excellent points that do not diminish my admiration for this book, which echoes what the starred reviews in major publications have said.

    I think Oberg’s follow-up comments in the discussion of his review, rather than the briefer review itself, add quite a bit to the discussion of this excellent book for young readers.

    Oberg’s comments illuminate the paradox that is LBJ. Then-Vice-President Johnson was nothing if not pragmatic, which is why he was later successful getting civil rights laws passed, but he could be blunt and even vicious in his language. The pragmatic LBJ recognized that making special accommodations for women would lead to other groups asking for the same thing.

    But when he said that, he used the language of the bigots who were all too commonly in positions of political power, and it is easy to conclude that he, himself, was a bigot. Oberg makes me reconsider whether Tanya Lee Stone’s interpretation was correct, or whether we need a little more nuance to understand Johnson. After all, later in his career Johnson became the president who pushed for and signed some remarkable civil rights legislation.

    And when you follow Oberg’s review’s link to his 2007 article about women space craft commanders, you will see that he admires women in space and the contribution of pioneers like the ones in Stone’s book.

    He seems to me to be a historian who is arguing for nuance. As an author of books for the same age range as this one, I know that it is not always easy to include such nuances. So I am sympathetic to both Stone’s work and Oberg’s comments. On my review page for Almost Astronauts (www.scienceshelf.com/AlmostAstronauts.htm>scienceshelf(dot)com ), I have added links to two of Oberg’s articles, which I suggest as supplemental reading to the book.

    Fred Bortz, author of Beyond Jupiter: The Story of Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel (Women’s Adventures in Science, http://www.fredbortz.com/HammelBio/)

  18. Nina says:

    Faith, what age level do you see this book as being pitched to? Don’t you think an 11 or 12 year old can follow what’s going on? This gets back to why this book distinguishes itself from other juvenile nonfiction. There is an interpretation, and persuasion. And the height of the emotion identifies it as such.

    Yes, a smile tinged with sadness is hokey. But children have a higher tolerance for hokeyness, cliche, and melodrama than adults do generally.

  19. Wendy says:

    Nina wrote: “Yes, a smile tinged with sadness is hokey. But children have a higher tolerance for hokeyness, cliche, and melodrama than adults do generally.”

    Oh, but Nina, isn’t that like talking down to children? The Newbery is for distinguished writing for children, not “what seems like distinguished writing if you’re a kid”. To say that kids have a higher tolerance for that kind of thing to seems to me like the “oh, a kid would never notice that” argument about, say, an inconsistency in a book.

  20. faith says:

    Okay, I will confess– *I* followed the emotion of the argument. It was wrong of me to push my own failings off on an imaginary child reader. This blog and the things you linked to, Nina, have made me realize just how much of the argument I thoughtlessly accepted, even while recoiling from the tone.

    I like passion, and I like engagement, but they are on a sliding scale. On the one end, you have dull as ditchwater and on the other, you have propaganda. For me, Stone is too close to the propaganda end of the argument for me to feel comfortable offering her book as a model for children.

  21. Nina says:

    Faith, I think you have honed in on the nut of the debate as this book relates to the Newbery criteria. Thanks. I see an agenda at play in the argument that to debunk the book for the content of its own “agenda,” rather than for its delivery, and I appreciate being able to get to what I see as the “real” argument.

  22. a teacher says:

    I’m a little confused as to what you think the real argument is. I think Stone’s “agenda” and Stone’s “delivery” in this case, is one in the same. It’s the way she delivers this story that shows to me and plenty others it would sem, that she has an agenda.

    Now that’s alright, to write with an agenda. It’s alright to be passionate about a cause and to fight to get the story heard. But when doing so, if you leave out plenty of information that could have created holes in your very own arguments which in turn would weaken the overall point you were trying to make, it makes you look one-sided and a little conniving. And it should be treated carefully when written as nonfiction for kids. Kids turn to nonfiction books and expect to find facts. When they see lines like “Organizations don’t like to be told that they are wrong” in the context of a nonfiction book, they will read it as fact when in reality, it’s an opinion of the author!

    Likewise, kids are not going to pick up this book and think about “institutionalized sexism” as an overall theme. (Which by the way, if that was Stone’s true message, why title the book ALMOST ASTRONAUTS?) They’re going to come to the conclusion because of the way the story is “delivered” that these women were wronged by NASA and not allowed to become astronauts. That’s what they’ll get out of it. That would be fine if it was true, but that “fact” as we’ve come to find out, is not so black and white.

    I don’t find anything “distinguished” about the way Stone presented her facts in ALMOST ASTRONAUTS. She writes with passion. That’s great. But passionate writing alone does not garner a Newbery medal. Looking at her story at the sentence level, you may find distinguished writing, but there are far too many questions and controversies at play here for me to consider this all too seriously in the realm of “distinguished interpretation of theme” for a Newbery medal.

  23. a librarian says:

    I’m almost afraid to comment at this point in the debate, but, having just finished the book, I’d like to offer my $0.02. At no time while reading this book was I under the impression that this was an “official NASA program.” Stone states over and over that the women were testing in secret, hoping to use the results to convince NASA to let them train as astronauts. I think Stone also makes it clear that the tests the women were given would not automatically put them into space. They would, if NASA accepted the results, allow them to be considered for the training program which would involve further testing.

    Though students might not think “institutional sexism,” they cannot help but notice the arguments leveled against the women. The testing and ability of the women were not the issue in the hearings, or anywhere else. It was the fact they were women. Readers will also be struck by the patronizing attitudes of the male astronauts, whom the students will recognize.

    Is this Newbery worthy? I don’t know, but I enjoyed it and will recommend it enthusiastically to my students.

  24. Anon. says:

    I don’t see what all the hub-bubs about.

    I haven’t read the book, but I hope this author gave a “well-rounded context” of the times in the early 60′s, and didn’t treat this subject in a vacuum as some big NASA conspiracy to keep women down.

    A commenter on Amazon said back then women weren’t allowed to rent a car or take out a loan from the bank without a man’s signature.

    So it wasn’t just NASA–these attitudes were pervasive. And all of corporate America was struggling with this. Up to that time a lot of women in the workplace were segregated by job. Then when they started working side by side with the men, it was an adjustment for everyone…including the wives at home.

    My dad was a manager in a top fortune 500 company and I know for a fact they had a lot of rules about men and women workplace interactions…staying late to work…etc. It seems completely ludicous now. Heck on TV they never even showed couples in the bedroom.

    So even assuming these women were trained and qualified…the close-quarters aspect of the job, including being with and training with the men, would be politically untennable for those times.

    There was no way a woman was going into space alone(they couldn’t even rent a car alone) or being the second occupant in a capsule with a man–not back then–case closed!!!

    Why wouldn’t LBJ want to put a stop to this…his job was to get to the moon–not use the space program as a testbed for women’s rights. Why open this can of worms?

    It was the same story with blacks in the military where desegregation didn’t happen till well into the Korean War. OH NO! They’ll assult all our white women.

    Women policemen or women in the military, on warships, in combat…same issue.

    And now we’re struggling with “don’t ask don’t tell”. And our last three President’s(all the way back to Clinton in 1993) have deferred to the generals who say any policy change may have an adverse effect the overall mission.

    So things really haven’t changed that much…have they…

  25. Kathy says:

    The statement that “back then women weren’t allowed to rent a car or take out a loan from the bank without a man’s signature” was in the book, and was the point where I stopped believing Stone’s argument. I am old enough to know that was not entirely true, but I consulted with older friends. I learned that it depended on where you lived and, most probably, who you were. The truth is more nuanced, and, as Bortz pointed out, that can be difficult to express. The choices of facts to include and emphasize, in this text, seem to me to leave an overall impression of a time and series of events that is not quite accurate. Some very distinguished works of history for young readers have presented an argument that differs from other opinions (RALEGH for example) but they make clear that that’s what they are doing. From title to end matter, this book doesn’t.

  26. Jim Oberg says:

    Great discussion and clarifying comments — thanks especially to
    Fred — and I’d be happy to comment further when back from vacation travel.

    Two items: the push for the women in space for Mercury was a push for a ‘demonstration’ stunt, a program that was doomed to failure because the Soviets were determined to pull off their woman-in-space stunt first no matter WHEN NASA could have scheduled one.

    Two, you have to step back and consider the historical results of two contrasting strategies — stuntsmanship to impress and mislead the weak-minded (the Tereshkova approach), versus methodical development of a foundation of substance and genuine experience/qualifications.

    Which has resulted, today, in a space program with a fairier role for women? Can anybody seriously argue that the US approach (and similar approaches in Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency) was by far the fairest and in the end, the better one?

    Do the math. Look at the space missions performed by Western women compared to the rare stunts Russian women were allowed.

  27. leslie c says:

    Stone does not argue that the US space program should have been more like the USSR’s, just that that the US program could have been better than it was, by moving more quickly to include women. Yes, conditions for women and minorities in the US have changed for the better in many ways but can’t an author question why the change didn’t happen faster? It happens all the time in civil rights movement books. Saying “do the math” has nothing to do with this book. She’s not saying NASA is evil or the US space program is a failure. Her book’s about events where change could have happened but didn’t, w a thought provoking way to look at social conditions over time.

  28. Kate says:

    I taught this book to a group of 7th graders just after it was released last spring, and I have to say that I disagree with the argument that kids can’t read the nuance of nonfiction that has a distinct point of view. This book led to a fantastic discussion about what might have been for these 13 women and the reasons that might have existed — valid and otherwise — for NASA’s unwillingness to consider women for the space program at that time. I found it to be distinguished – and truly unique – in part because of that impassioned tone that others are complaining about.

  29. a teacher says:

    “This book led to a fantastic discussion about what might have been for these 13 women and the reasons that might have existed — valid and otherwise — for NASA’s unwillingness to consider women for the space program at that time.”

    Just curious, did your discussion with your 7th graders include talk of how men fared in similar training exercises?

    And for the record, I don’t think anyone is complaining about Stone writing passionately. People are complaining about how she conveniently left out details from the “whole story”.

  30. Kate says:

    Well, actually, the book does include some comparisons as to how men did on similar tests, though it would have been interesting for the kids to do even more research on that topic.

    (And in fact, I’m thinking that this whole conversation about what’s included and what’s left out in nonfiction writing — because ALL nonfiction writers pick and choose which facts to include — would make a great exploration for the kids, too. I’d love to do a literature circles unit in which students read a selection of nonfiction titles including this one and then do additional reading to find out what the authors may have decided not to include in the text. They could speculate as to why, then write letters or Skype with the authors…but anyway, I digress.)

    I just think your earlier argument (if this is the same “a teacher” above) that kids won’t see the difference between hard facts and an author’s conclusions fails to give middle school students enough credit. They are sophisticated readers who appreciate various viewpoints and will debate them with great enthusiasm.

  31. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Jim, can you tell us whether you have read ALMOST ASTRONAUTS? In earlier comments, I surmised that you hadn’t, but I would happily stand corrected.

    I hate to be so nosy about this point, but when comments from subject specialists who have not read the entire book (ALMOST ASTRONAUTS, A SEASON OF GIFTS, YEARS OF DUST) are entered into the Newbery debate, it’s almost impossible for me to take them seriously.

  32. Colleen Mondor says:

    One thing I really liked about the book is that it made clear the only qualification the women did not meet (jet time) was one they could not meet (the only jet time was in the military for combat and women were not permitted in those aircraft). Stone does hammer this home but I think she needed to in order to combat the prevailing opinion that the original Mercury astronauts had the “Right Stuff” and no one else did. She also is trying to explain something that is no longer true today and might be hard for modern readers to grasp with women so welcome not only in the Space Shuttle but the airlines, etc.

    As a girl growing up on the Space Coast I wondered why there were no female astronauts in the 70s and now I know – they weren’t allowed to become astronauts and the same was true of African American military pilots who were denied jet time due to discriminatory policies (as the author points out).

    If you are telling a long ignored story of this caliber is it wrong to be passionate about it and call discrimination when you see it? I don’t think so. There were easily women pilots who could have flown jets at that time – unlike Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman and those of an earlier era, they just didn’t have access to the equipment. Heck the major airlines didn’t hire a woman to fly the line until 1973.

    Discrimination against women in aviation was a fact during that time as any aviation historian will acknowledge. Stone is just saying it like it was.

  33. Susan says:

    Tanya Lee Stone is a terrific writer, and her subject fascinates. But if her potential readers don’t know what actually happened during Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, it’s like teaching alternate history to someone who doesn’t have any comparison.

  34. Nina says:

    Susan, but who says she has to tell the entire story of space exploration? She’s defined her story, and she tells it well.

    Are we supposed to criticize Hoose for not giving us the full story of Rosa Parks and Dr. King?

  35. Children's Librarian says:

    I agree with other posts that Stone’s writing style TELLS the reader how to feel about the Mercury 13 rather than allowing the reader to feel admiration, anger, etc. for themselves. Stone’s editorializing is troubling (p. 59 “NASA was treating Cobb like an annoying child who didn’t quite know her place.”) and uncited statements (the 5-page assault on Jackie Cochran and p. 115 “The most drastic change occurs in college, where more technical majors, such as computer science and electrical engineering, are increasingly being ruled out by female students.”) undermine authentic research. Anyone else troubled by these?

  36. a teacher says:

    I think lots of people were troubled by things like that in the book, that’s why it was so split amongst readers. Personally, I feel like a lot of people let Stone off the hook simply because she wrote “passionately”. I don’t like that either . . .

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