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Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space

Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space

4.5 4
by Lynn Sherr

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The definitive biography of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, with exclusive insights from Ride’s family and partner, by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys’ club to a more inclusive elite.

Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space. A member of the first astronaut


The definitive biography of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, with exclusive insights from Ride’s family and partner, by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys’ club to a more inclusive elite.

Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space. A member of the first astronaut class to include women, she broke through a quarter-century of white male fighter jocks when NASA chose her for the seventh shuttle mission, cracking the celestial ceiling and inspiring several generations of women.

After a second flight, Ride served on the panels investigating the Challenger explosion and the Columbia disintegration that killed all aboard. In both instances she faulted NASA’s rush to meet mission deadlines and its organizational failures. She cofounded a company promoting science and education for children, especially girls.

Sherr also writes about Ride’s scrupulously guarded personal life—she kept her sexual orientation private—with exclusive access to Ride’s partner, her former husband, her family, and countless friends and colleagues. Sherr draws from Ride’s diaries, files, and letters. This is a rich biography of a fascinating woman whose life intersected with revolutionary social and scientific changes in America. Sherr’s revealing portrait is warm and admiring but unsparing. It makes this extraordinarily talented and bold woman, an inspiration to millions, come alive.

Editorial Reviews

At first, Sally Ride's chances of becoming America's first woman astronaut did not seem promising. When, as a Stanford student, she applied for a spot in the U.S. space program, her résumé joined more than 8,000 others on the pile. But as this definitive new biography by ABC NASA reporter Lynn Sherr demonstrates decisively, Ride (1951-2012) was something special. When she was chosen for the seventh shuttle mission, she not only made history, she set an example for other young women breaking through. (P.S. This bio benefits from extensive interviews with Ride's partner and family, and provides extensive information on her long, brave struggle against cancer.)

Library Journal
Sherr (former correspondent, ABC News; Swim) and Sally Ride (1951–2012), one of America's most famous astronauts, became friends over the course of interviews while Sherr was covering NASA for ABC. Now Sherr presents the authorized biography of Ride, with their friendship adding a personal dimension to the narrative. The late Ride's partner and family provided Sherr with access to many documents and granted her interviews, so the book includes rich details about the personal life of a very private woman. Drawing upon others' works (e.g., Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff), but also her own detailed interviews with key players, Sherr takes the time to discuss the space race, the challenges for women wishing to become astronauts, and the barriers LGBT scientists (Ride was a physicist) have had to overcome, all of which are important contexts for understanding the significance of Ride's milestone achievements. VERDICT The book is fast paced and an engaging read, though some of the very contemporary references (e.g., to Downton Abbey) may end up dating it. It will appeal to space exploration buffs and fans of popular biography, as well as those seeking books on women's achievements in U.S. history.—Sara R. Tompson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Lib., Pasadena, CA
Publishers Weekly
When astronaut Dr. Sally Ride died in 2012, the woman who was once the most famous person in the world, shocked many when her obituary revealed that she was survived by her female partner of nearly three decades. Journalist Sherr, a longtime friend of Ride, gets behind the walls of the very guarded and private pioneer in this engrossing biography. Ride’s trajectory may have been entirely different if the former top-ranked 1968 college tennis player in the East had pursued the game professionally. But when NASA began recruiting women and minorities in 1976, Ride, who had been the only female student in her undergraduate physics class, beat out 8,000 others to get her spot. It was a heady and historic time, although not without an abundance of sexist and clueless ideas both from NASA (the engineers asking Ride if 100 tampons for a week in space was sufficient) and the press (a reporter infamously asked if she wept when angry). Level-headed and possessed of an optimistic live-in-the-moment attitude, she skillfully navigated such public moments and kept the personal locked away out of view. In the end, Sherr provides a window into one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. (June)
Patricia Cornwell
“Beautifully done . . . impossible to put down. Sherr draws us into a will and a passion more vast than outer space.”
Starred Review Booklist
"This is an intimate and enormously appealing biography of a fascinating woman, a triumph of research and sensitivity that lives up to its subject and will likely move readers to tears."
Andrew Chaikin
“As an astronaut who became an icon, Sally Ride was an inspiration to millions. But as Lynn Sherr documents in this candid, thorough, and touching portrait, she was also an explorer of life. I'm grateful to Lynn for revealing the Sally I never knew, and for filling an important gap in the literature of the U.S. space program.”
Cokie Roberts
“In this engaging and entertaining book, Lynn Sherr tells the story of America's exploration in the outer reaches of space and in the innermost attitudes toward human sexuality. We learn not only about Sally Ride's extraordinary life as the first American woman in space, but also for the first time of her intense and equally fascinating private life.”
Sally Jenkins
“A great American biography . . . Lynn Sherr’s Sally Ride is a vibrant, honest, and at long last, complete portrait of the woman who bucked history, changed the space agency, and helped alter her country.”
Diana Nyad
“Wow. What a read. I was enthralled and enchanted. Sally Ride is a national treasure, free-thinker, and adventurer extraordinaire. Lynn Sherr's years as a NASA correspondent bleed through with the pulsing drama of our early space discoveries. And her close friendship with Sally renders the inside story replete with delightful and eccentric detail.”
Nicolle Wallace
“An exquisite and careful biography . . . one of the most inspiring stories I've ever read about a woman at the top of her profession who never stopped pushing herself; who never stopped serving the causes she loved and who never lived a public life as the woman she really was. . . . I was moved, inspired and grateful for this detailed and compelling account of the life of such an extraordinary woman.”
From the Publisher
"This is an intimate and enormously appealing biography of a fascinating woman, a triumph of research and sensitivity that lives up to its subject and will likely move readers to tears in its final, poignant pages. ---Booklist Starred Review
Ms. Magazine
The Oprah Magazine O
Wellesley Magazine
“Complex and nuanced.”
Sacramento Bee
The Washington Post
“A biography of America’s first woman in space that is riveting, beautifully written and rich in detail… Sherr effectively goes beyond Ride’s familiar public facade — the bright smile and twinkling blue eyes — and reveals a complex woman…[a] captivating biography.”
“Sherr, a longtime ABC News correspondent who covered Ride’s flight and knew her well, brings a confident, breezy tone to Ride’s life story. …. It’s a full and happy life that makes for a fast, fun read.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“Revealing…The Sally Ride that emerges here — courageous, gifted, determined, complicated, conflicted — is both heroic and human. Sherr captures her as someone who didn’t just want to make a name for herself. She wanted to make a difference.”
Washington Blade
“A must-read.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Thanks to this moving, inspirational account of [Sally Ride’s] life, we can more fully honor this hero as a human being.”
American Prospect
“What’s refreshing about Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space is that Lynn Sherr paints an evenhanded portrait of Ride as an iconic American whose accomplishments are inseparable from the second-wave feminist moment in which she reached them.”
The Washington Post - Marcia Bartusiak
"Sherr portrays a complex woman, easy-going one day, hard-hearted the next and inscrutable about her 27-year relationship with her female partner."
Kirkus Reviews
An award-winning journalist's revealing biography of Sally Ride (1951-2012), the first American woman in space. Former ABC News correspondent Sherr (Swim: Why We Love the Water, 2012, etc.) first met Ride, a young Stanford-trained physicist, in 1981. Three years earlier, NASA had chosen Ride to join a group of five other women and 29 men to participate in the new space shuttle program. The group represented the very best minds America had to offer. But for the women, who were the first in NASA history to be selected for space flight, the challenge was even greater. They not only represented themselves as individuals, but their entire gender. As the first woman to actually go on a mission, Ride came under especially intense scrutiny from the media. Her ability to lead but also "take orders like a trooper," along with her wit and charm, endeared her to America and the world. During the nine years she was associated with the space program, Ride's exemplary conduct "transformed female astronauts from a punch line into a matter of national pride." She returned to academia afterward and became a professor. Eager to use her notoriety to help young people, and especially girls, take an interest in math and science, she co-founded Sally Ride Science in 2001. However, the former astronaut was never entirely comfortable with her celebrity status and kept parts of her life hidden, including the fact that she was a lesbian. Though married during her years at NASA, Ride's true sexual orientation did not become public until her death, when her obituary mentioned that she had been survived by a female partner of nearly three decades. Sherr's book is important not simply because it memorializes an American icon. It pointedly reminds readers of the crippling burden of "shame and fear" that even—and perhaps especially—the most golden heroes must bear in societies that cannot tolerate difference. An intimately celebratory biography.

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Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author

Lynn Sherr is an award-winning broadcaster and author who spent more than thirty years at ABC News. She reported on the NASA space shuttle program from its inception in 1981 through the Challenger explosion in 1986. Sherr’s numerous awards include an Emmy, two American Women in Radio and Television Commendation awards, a Gracie Award, and a George Foster Peabody Award. Her books include Swim, Outside the Box, and America the Beautiful, among others.

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Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lynn Sherr's masterful book does a very even handed job exploring the life of Dr. Ride, the history of her time, her personal accomplishments, and the personal side of a very intelligent and intriguing heroine. She may have been the first American woman astronaut to orbit, breaking that glass ceiling for so many, but she was able to do anything she set her mind to do. Ms. Sherr's work explores much of the private side of Sally helping me to understand better this very private and vital woman. We can only wish that her bright mind and self were still here to inspire, lead, and challenge all of us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting. Learned a lot about sally
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago