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FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. The first African American woman to travel to space shares her special memories from her childhood in Chicago, to her college career at Stanford University, to her work in West Africa as the Peace Corps youngest medical officer.
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From majoring in chemical engineering at Stanford University (at the age of 16) to giggling with hairdressers in Nairobi (in Swahili) to orbiting the Earth as the first woman of color to travel in space (conducting experiments in life and material sciences and bone cell research as the mission's science specialist), Mae Jemison has never been one to sit and watch life pass her by. From childhood, Jemison knew she would be an astronaut--the fact that space travelers tended to be white men only meant one more obstacle she would gladly face. Her autobiography, sassy, confident, and witty, is full of anecdotes designed to empower young readers, even as they chuckle at her foibles and cheer her victories. Whether working as a Peace Corps medical officer, fiercely upholding her feminist stance in a sexist college class, or dancing her "fanny off," Jemison is an inspiration to every child who dreams big. (Ages 10 and older) --Emilie CoulterExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
WIND CURRENTS: WHO I INTENDED TO BE
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Looking around the room I saw the magical board, with the colorful felt sun, flowers, and trees that stuck without glue and I thought, "I know the answer to that." I waved my hand excitedly, arm straight up in the air. I could barely hold my response inside while the teacher called on the other 5 and 6 year olds. They said "fireman," "police officer," "mailman," "teacher," "mother." I had my answer. It was none of these.
Finally the teacher called on me. Without hesitation, I answered emphatically, "I want to be a scientist."
The teacher looked puzzled and slightly taken aback. I can't say I know exactly what was wrong with my answer. Perhaps my teacher looked around the kindergarten at McCosh Elementary School, 65 th and Champlain Avenue in Woodlawn, inner city Chicago, she was surprised. Maybe she was thrown off by this skinny, brown-skinned girl, with short hair, who despite her baby-sitter's best efforts, might come to school a bit disheveled. Though obviously quite bright-this girl could already read and knew all her numbers-she refused to act like a little lady on the way to school with her older brother and sister or anywhere else. Maybe the teacher felt it was her job to help her students set realistic goals. In 1961, becoming a scientist was not in the realm of possible for most people-and certainly not a little colored girl. (African Americans were still called and called ourselves "colored" back then). So the teacher replied, "Don't you mean a nurse?"
To be honest, at that moment I did not worry about her thoughts. I was plain indignant. She doubted me, as if I didn't know what a scientist was or worse, that I was incapable of becoming one. I simply put my hands on my hips and said, "No, I mean a scientist."
Years later, after getting a degree Chemical Engineering and while I was in Medical School, I slipped and told a friend of a friend that I was going to apply to be an astronaut. He laughed loudly and said, "You mean like the guys who go to the moon? Give me a break."
Today, looking both back at my life growing up and forward toward the future possibilities, I'm struck by how the flow of life events is like the wind.
Events that change us and redirect our lives may begin very subtly, like small changes in air temperature. There is a slight rustle of tree leaves; yet if one observes the accompanying signs, the next day's weather is forecast. The hint of a breeze that kisses your cheek may turn into a full-fledged hurricane that uproots trees and old ideas. Wind can flood the shoreline and change the course of rivers. A miniscule drop in atmospheric pressure may signal a tornado that in one intense minute knocks over buildings and blocks of the imagination. The next second the wind is gone, but your path in life is altered forever.
Life stretches in front of and behind us, made up of the actions we and others took. I wonder: Is it possible to see? What are the trends? The small stirring of air as I waved my hand back and forth in kindergarten created only a slight breeze. What became of that breeze? What currents in my life began just then? What becomes of the wind?
My story, to date, is not a mystery. You may even know the ending, up to a point. I say up to a point because I am still alive. My life, I imagine and hope, continues to hold secrets, new challenges, and good times.
I have had a career in the physical sciences and technology, but also the social sciences. I got through elementary school; the riots in the Chicago ghettos in 1960s; short natural hair combined with puberty (whew!); integrated high schools, and whether that cute football player liked me as much as I liked him; chemical engineering at Stanford University in California and medical school at Cornell University in New York City; Cambodian refugee camps, and whether my country loved me as much as I was supposed to love it; the reality of being a doctor in West Africa; adjusting to summers in Houston, Texas-well, just Texas period; astronaut training, military pilots, space flight, learning about death; relinquishing the dream to be a fashion designer, an architectural designer, and professional dancer; crushes on famous, fictional and not-so-famous men; and pseudo-celebritydom. I went through all of that trying to find where the wind goes. And I am still not sure.
I can say however that I have learned that there are always hints along the way, childhood is filled with them; some I paid attention to, some I missed completely, and quite a few I just chose to ignore. This is brief collection of some of the moments of my life - large, small, and medium-sized moments that have carried me aloft to this place, this day. I want to share these moments with you now, for they were some of my best clues. I know there will definitely be more to come-'cause the wind never stops blowing.
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Book Description Turtleback Books, 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0613720172