I Am Neil Armstrong, by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Whether or not Neil Armstrong can qualify as heroic for being an astronaut, it is at least clear that he made one small step for a man but one giant step for mankind. It is also clear that there are several agendas going on here on this book that are worth noting as well because if they are transparent they are also evidence of the author’s point of view when it comes to questions of taxes and policy and political correctness. For one, this particular book makes specific praise of one of the notable people in Hidden Figures, demonstrating the author’s intention to spend time talking not about Neil Armstrong but about someone connected to him that should also be remembered in the point of view of the author. In addition to this, the author plugs for human exploration of space towards the end of the book, a reminder that space exploration is certainly popular for children but an issue of considerable more controversy when it comes to the expense of doing so when it comes to tax policy. NASA is a big draw for kids but more often a big drain on the budget of the nation as a whole.
This particular book focuses on the childhood of the subject, which is pretty typical, and contains surprisingly little about his adult life other than his military service, which includes an ejection from a plane that had been shot at but no shooting enemy jets, a lot of work for NASA. Indeed, the author spends most of this book talking about his love of flying, whether it was planes or rockets, and the skills in mathematics that allowed him to do so. The author even recounts, or invents, a childhood story about taking a plane trip which the subject enjoyed but his father did not, which perhaps sets up Armstrong’s father as a bit of a coward, which gives yet another jab against manhood that would follow the author’s modus operendi in such matters. Yet the author is strangely silent about what Armstrong did after the parades ended when he returned to earth, and what other than rocketry was the subject of his adult life and his efforts at exploration. Like it is with some people, the author simply has little interest in the subject outside of what made them famous and what prepared them for that moment of fame.
And in a book like this, the politics of the author take on an oversize importance. The author frames the lack of training on Armstrong’s part when it came to being shot down in the Korean War as a methodical ability to read instructions and find his way to safety. It attacks the heroism of his father in overcoming the primitive conditions of early passenger flight as a way to bolster the subject’s own heroism. And the author’s politics when it comes to the hidden figure referred to briefly within its pages as well as its strident defense of human exploration of space seem to be done in order to engage in a political worldview that is far from neutral or far from carefully explained. Why, out of all the people in NASA that the author could work for, does the author pick the most politically correct choice? And why does the author view space exploration as such a key priority, or at least why does the author view NASA as the appropriate model for space exploration when SpaceX does a good job at providing space exploration without taxpayer funding, something to keep in mind in an age of austerity and when NASA itself has often been wasteful and inefficient in its budgeting?