A Quantum Life is the memoir of Hakeem Oluwesi, an astrophysicist who with his own extraordinary mind, hard work, and a few critical teachers went from poverty and crime to working for NASA. It is also an extraordinary example of capturing the mind of a child. In his book, Oluwesi talks of his childhood through a child’s eye. There is a hilarious scene where he’s watching an electric heater coils turn red and begins to wonder, as children do, what would happen if…and I won’t ruin it for you. I’ll just say it was hilarious and so perfectly captured the avid curiosity without boundaries of a child.
Oluwesi struggled with drug addiction, particularly with crack. He talks honestly about the euphoria it can engender, making its power over people easy to understand. He also talks about how it displaces everything else in priority. He fought a hard battle and succeeded, but it was very much thanks to critical interventions, when teachers took a chance on him, believed in him, and guided him. While much of his success is down to his own ability and hard work, he is scrupulous in crediting the many people who helped along the way. He also does not shy away from pointing out how racism was often an impediment and how hard he had to work to overcome the opinions of those who assumed he did not deserve his place in their schools.
I loved A Quantum Life. It was fast-paced and captivating. I read it in two bites and would happily read a second about his career at NASA and in academia. He also explains things that may be confusing to non-physicists in clear terms. He should write a book on quantum physics for nonscientists. He worked with a ghost writer,, Joshua Horwitz, and together they are a great combination.
I received an e-galley of A Quantum Life from the publisher through NetGalley.