Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

Good news first! this book shows you how much women at JPL struggled at the time. You can translate the problems at JPL to any other organisation. Why is that good news? Well, if there is a single soul left thinking sexism doesn’t exist, it should be pretty clear after reading the book. I enjoyed every word of this book, it has a nice flow.

There are, of course, drawbacks to the author’s style. Let’s start with the title. I would like to see the word ‘women’ there, but perhaps it is not as catchy as ‘girls’. ‘Girls’ is a one syllable word after all, easy to remember(?). The book is written like it is work of fiction. Although I found this quite charming, I imagine it will disappoint some. Because it is also this style that downplays the sexism, or the success of women at JPL achieved by caring and supporting each other. Ok, not exactly downplays it, but… how to say it… It doesn’t make it the main course which you stare at a dinner party more than half the time. It is rather the desert you serve with a nice glass of wine. You get the enjoy the looks of the desert, you taste it and then you start talking about it. That’s when all the flavour comes out. You have to think about the events to see the struggle. To see how women had been and still are treated.

My recommendation is that do not read this book like it is a manifesto. Do not expect to find heated arguments against sexism. Instead, look and see how women survived in a world ready to fry them. They may not had rallies, or boiling arguments but what these women had done is also needed for us to get the rights we deserve. It is a quiet revolution, not a bloody one and so is the book.

Genre: Biography, Feminism, History, Non-fiction

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

I haven’t read any literature on autism, I exempt scientific articles from this context. Any literature that is written by a neurotypical who is not the experimenter. Until this book. I came across a review on Nature. I said to myself ‘There were many days you dreamt of having the label autistic so that you could explain why you were the way you were because the term eccentric just wasn’t enough for you to accept you, for people to accept you. Shouldn’t you know more about the history of the label and the battle people fought to define it?’.

I ordered the book from Google PlayBooks on 14 Dec. Just a couple of hours ago, I marked it as finished. The book gives you a comprehensive story of autism. As a scientist myself, reading this book made me realise once more how much science is entangled with prejudice, politics and pretence claims giving birth to pain and suffering. I once more realised how the help I expect from medicine is… How to express this? You would think that instead of putting the kids to prisons, so called “modern” medicine, a field that should go hand-in-hand with science and sociology, would create environments flourishing the abilities of the kids.

Science is a process. I would like to believe that it is a process that likes to progress. Page after page, I searched for the progress. The process of trying to understand and searching for answers was there. The process of faking results, gaining popularity over the suffering of many was there. But the progress… How can we start from “little professors” and go back to the adjectives like uneducable, asexual, unaware. May the reason be war, may the reason be economics, may the reason be anything you can imagine. We have failed folks. This is not the first time and sadly not the last time, science has failed and will fail.

I know I haven’t done my own research or read any other books to form a healthy opinion but this is the only response, an emotional one indeed, I can give. The book by all means is a fair representation of the scientific community as far as I’m concerned. Science being new religion took it’s toll in autism. We made them suffer in the name of science. SCIENCE IS NOT THE NEW RELIGION! Treating science as the new religion is the worst thing that can happen to human kind.

Science is open to misinterpretations and prone to be used a crowd-control tool much more than the holy religions which is the first point you will came across learning about the history of autism. The second point is the importance of patience, you will see that given enough time some of the kids/adults became far more successful than neurotypicals. Third point is related to the second one, neurodiversity. Human kind has a problem accepting the diversity. If these differences occur on a level not visible to human eye it’s just about impossible to accept. Having two legs doesn’t mean you are not in pain, doesn’t mean you can climb mountains, doesn’t mean you can run a marathon. But we tend to stick strong slogans to everyone’s face that are far from the truth: “You have your legs, what’s your excuse?!. Shut up and do it! You can become anything you can imagine!”. We said the same thing to them: you have everything intact, so what’s your excuse not snapping out of it?! Which is ironic, truly. Neurotypicals supposedly had the empathy to relate to others. We have clearly failed to do so.

I deliberately refrained from giving a true summary of the book but instead conveyed the thoughts it lit up on my mind. These three were the points I would be thinking over and over, trying to apply what I have learned as a general idea to almost any subject not just to autism. Prepare your pen, markers and notepad while reading the book. You would like to go back a few pages before you move on to the next page a few times. Some names you would like to hear more about but never will. The real life stories are not dramatised, yet it will bring tears to your eyes.

Genre: History, Non-fiction