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 memories, mysterious photographs, and uncanny childhood toys, 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.
About the author
Lindsey 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).
"In this book things radiate and travel—they're both material and immaterial, pulsing and still. Adding texture to the relationship between materiality and memory, Lindsey Freeman shows how tightly history and biography, social imaginaries and social worlds, are sewn together and emerge in scenes of everyday living."
—Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas at Austin
"These discrete vignettes spark off each other, collectively producing a text that is kaleidoscopic, wondrous, and witty. Sometimes richly comic, sometimes just quirky, but never sentimental or sugary, the writing is wry, the gaze jaundiced; there is love and affection but not affectation. Freeman presents us with an intricately conceived and intensely expressed structure of feeling, decked out here in vibrant hues."
—Graeme Gilloch, Lancaster University
"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
"With a scholar's rigor and a granddaughter's wistful heart, Lindsey Freeman reminds us—by atomizing memory and emotion with poetic authority—that nuclear might, at its core, is not a matter of techno-strategy, or even science, but a burden of the body, mind, and heart."
—Dan Zak, author of Almighty: Courage, Resistance and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age
"Narrated in a voice both wildly innocent and deeply wise, This Atom Bomb in Me creates an astonishing, provocative collage of text and image that challenges us to face the devastating history and legacy of the nuclear age. Lyrical and poignant, with a dose of good storytelling, Lindsey Freeman's book sings of the urgency of our times."
—Kristen Iversen, University of Cincinnati, author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
"Through a tapestry of interwoven vignettes, Freeman...revisits the surreal side of her Reagan-era childhood in a beautiful and haunting memoir....[An] evocative, quietly probing account."
"In This Atom Bomb in Me, [Freeman] assembles her 'blocks of text' into an artistic structure as solid as the Comesto houses themselves and spacious enough to hold the heart of a sensitive and thoughtful child growing up in an unusual place...This Atom Bomb in Me is more than a memoir. It's also a work of social science, however unconventional."
—Tina Chambers, Chapter 16
"Both the mundane and the mysterious irradiate this slim memoir, which builds into something more than just the remembrance of a uniquely situated adolescence in Reagan's America. In addition to an idiosyncratic consideration of memory and belonging, This Atom Bomb in Me offers a poetic exploration of how culture and identity synthesize each other."
—Will Wlizlo, Rain Taxi Review of Books
"This Atom Bomb in Me is a sensitive experiment in producing theory from the place of the wolf, the belly of memory....I read this short book voraciously twice."
—Yani Kong, Memory Studies