THE ATOM BOMB IN ME


This Atom Bomb in Me traces what it felt like to grow up suffused with American nuclear culture in and around the atomic city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. As a secret city during the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge enriched the uranium that powered Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The city was a major nuclear production site throughout the Cold War, adding something to each and every bomb in the United States arsenal. Even today, Oak Ridge contains the world’s largest supply of fissionable uranium.

The granddaughter of an atomic courier, Lindsey A. Freeman turns a critical yet nostalgic eye to the place where her family was sent as part of a covert government plan.

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This Atom Bomb in Me traces what it felt like to grow up suffused with American nuclear culture in and around the atomic city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. As a secret city during the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge enriched the uranium that powered Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The city was a major nuclear production site throughout the Cold War, adding something to each and every bomb in the United States arsenal. Even today, Oak Ridge contains the world’s largest supply of fissionable uranium.

The granddaughter of an atomic courier, Lindsey A. Freeman turns a critical yet nostalgic eye to the place where her family was sent as part of a covert government plan. Theirs was a city devoted to nuclear science within a larger America obsessed with its nuclear prowess. Through a series of vignettes around memories, photographs, childhood toys, and family members, she shows how Reagan-era politics and nuclear culture irradiated the late twentieth century. Alternately tender and alarming, her book takes a Geiger counter to recent history, reading the half-life of the atomic past as it resonates in our tense nuclear present.

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  • Redwood Press
  • Hardcover
  • February 2019
  • 128 Pages
  • 9781503606890

Buy the Book

$18.00

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About Lindsey Freeman

Lindsey FreemanLindsey A. Freeman is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Simon Fraser University and the author of Longing for the Bomb: Oak Ridge and Atomic Nostalgia (2015).

Author Website

Praise

“A gorgeously crafted memoir about the atomic sensorium of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Funny, wrenching, erudite. Gulp it down in a single sitting.”Gabrielle Hecht, author of Being Nuclear

“Lyrical and poignant, with a dose of good storytelling, Lindsey Freeman’s book sings of the urgency of our times.”Kristen Iversen, author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

Discussion Questions

1. Were you aware of Oak Ridge before reading this book? What are your thoughts about this secret government-founded city? Did your thoughts change after reading this book?

2. Did you have a favorite vignette? Did you find any particularly interesting or moving?

3. Freeman uses color evocatively throughout the book—the primary colors of Mondrian paintings, the green luminescence of the Glo Worm, Captain Atom’s bright suit, the “black boxes” of loss (72), the ever-changing nature of Hypercolor shirts. How does color bring these vignettes and stories to life? What did you find to be the most memorable use of color in the book?

4. Talk about the use of the photographs. How did they enrich the stories? Which images were the most affective or compelling to you as you read?

5. Though the Cold War is in the past, Americans still live in nuclear times. How does the book’s juxtaposition of past and present reflect was has (and has not) changed in American politics and society over the last few decades?

6. The author’s grandmother, Nan, comes up often in her stories. What sort of woman is Nan and how do you know? What stories about her did you enjoy the most? How does her personality differ from the “Oak Rigidness” of the author and her mother?

7. Freeman says about her writing, “I set to work collecting squares of time, forming them into blocks of text, as a protection against oblivion” (70). Do you think the written word offers any such protection? Why or why not?

8. “The things we are surrounded by when we are young become formed inside us, absorbed…Slowly, over time, as we confront these familiar objects, we take them in, feel our places within and among them, even feel part of them” (107). What places, people, and things from your youth have been absorbed in you? As an adult, how do you confront them? How are they are part of you? Are there any you wish were not a part of you?