[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Story of the First African American Woman In Space

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

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Our reading theme for July-September is Binge-Read: Book Series Marathon. We are expanding the range of this theme to include books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. Books that are part of an ongoing series
  2. Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
  3. Short story collections
  4. Narratives of a similar genre
  5. Stories written by same author

Over the past several weeks, I have been sharing the story of Katherine Johnson (see Parts One, Two, Three) and capped it off with the picturebook version of Hidden FiguresStill in keeping with stories of women of color who are scientists – here is another one to add to the “series” or list.

Mae Among The Stars (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Roda Ahmed Illustrated by Stasia Burrington
Published by Harper Collins (2018)
ISBN: 9780062651730 (ISBN10: 0062651730) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I love how this story begins with a depiction of Mae Carol Jemison as a daydreamer. It reminded me of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Too often, daydreaming is derided as having no value, when nothing can be further from the truth.

I was also deeply heartened and moved by the overwhelming support provided Mae by her parents when she told them that she wishes to see Earth from space. They also gave her the tools and resources needed to make this happen by bringing her to the library, encouraging her love for play, and providing Mae such sound advice that most children need to hear:

… if you dream it, believe in it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.

Sadly, Mae’s (White) teacher in school thought that her dreams were unrealistic and diminished it with the claim that: “Nursing would be a good profession for someone like you.”

Oftentimes, our prejudices are sugar-coated with supposedly well-meaning platitudes that are nothing more than microaggressions. Yet, when confronted about this, most people will claim that they are not racists, but are merely trying to help or are just providing suggestions. There is a refusal to acknowledge that one’s implicit biases drive one’s frame of reference that also very subtly imposes glass ceilings where there should be none.

Fortunately, Mae Jemison refused to have her aspirations diminished. As noted in the Afterword:

… at the incredible age of sixteen she enrolled at Stanford University, earning a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering in 1977. After Mae got her MD in 1981 from Cornell Medical College, she briefly worked as a general practitioner before leaving to work with the Peace Corps as a medical officer in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

She also became the first African American female astronaut in space in 1992. How absolutely awesome is that.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 78 out of target 100

August 4, 2021 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal