Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Step: One Woman's Journey to Finding Her Own Happiness and Success During the Apollo Space Program

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Rating: 3 Stars

I won a copy of this book from the Goodreads First-Reads program.

This was a quick read and one I thought I would enjoy because I am obsessed with the Apollo program and I long for the days when people were excited about NASA and space missions, and the like. While in most other aspects of life I am glad I did not grow up in the 60s, what I would not give to have been alive for the launch of Apollo 11 and to have seen the grainy footage of Armstrong's first steps on the lunar surface. It seems that in this century, we take space travel for granted, like it something mundane and easy - even with the disintegration and total loss of life from the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003.

Unfortunately this was not nearly what I had hoped for, and I almost feel bad in saying so, because this was one woman's personal experience, but there were somethings that she discussed that really bothered me. As a single mom myself, I was interested in that aspect of her life in terms of how she handled her career and parenting responsibilities in a time when divorce was nearly unheard of - but certainly on the rise. I was interested in the workings and operations in regards to her position first as a secretary with IBM and then as a PR writer with the program. I was less concerned with the mini skirts and make-up and affairs.

I first came to know about the Apollo missions mainly from one of my all-time favorite movies, Apollo 13. For reasons I can not fathom, this is not something that was covered in-depth in school. For the life of me I can not figure out why not. Space is cool, planets are cool, walking on the moon is cool - what's not to love. Even my three year old digs moon-gazing, something that was especially cool with the Super Moon a few days ago. But I digress. For whatever reason, while we were of course taught about Apollo 11, the rest of the program itself was not a priority. Such a bummer.

But back to the book...

In the end, I found I could relate to the author in some ways - working hard and putting in the hours to support our families, but in other ways her story was very alien to me because of our generational differences and societal expectations of the times. I know it was impossible to even think of leaving the house without hair and make-up done, wearing anything but skirts and blouses, so once again I am thankful I did not live in the 60s or earlier. I myself am more partial to sleep than make-up, and I haven't worn it in ages. Sorry I'm not sorry.

There is a particular scene in the book I struggle with, and it involves when the author was needing to get some photos of the astronauts in an area of one of the buildings where it was against the rules to wear skirts. This was a rule in the name of safety, as they thought that the men working on the catwalks might either get distracted by a woman in a mini-skirt and fall, or get distracted and drop the tools they were using which might in turn injure or kill someone working below them. I thought it was highly stupid of her to flaunt the rule in the name of getting some photographs, but also a highly stupid rule to begin with. If these dudes can't control themselves, why is it HER problem? Perhaps they shouldn't be cat-calling a-holes and concentrate on working on the flight craft instead of ogling any woman in the vicinity. Yet one more reason I am thankful to be alive now - not that guys do not do this garbage anymore, but it is certainly less acceptable by society's standards.

This book was not terrible by any means, and was one woman's view as she saw it and lived her life, working for IBM during one of the most exciting times in our nation's history. I simply was looking forward to more about the program itself. (Also, conversations abound in this text. If you have read any previous reviews, you know my stance on conversations and that I feel unless the conversation was recorded at the time, there is no possible way everything said can be remembered exactly. That was something that definitely bugged me about this one.) The book is both her personal and professional journey and I'd definitely like to know more about women connected to the space program at this time. I have discovered a few books relating to this topic that I am looking forward to reading those as well.

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