This Atom Bomb in Me

Lindsey A. Freeman. Redwood, $18 ISBN 978-1-5036-0689-0
Through a tapestry of interwoven vignettes, Freeman (Longing for the Bomb: Oak Ridge and Atomic Nostalgia) revisits the surreal side of her Reagan-era childhood in a beautiful and haunting memoir. The grandchild of a Manhattan Project courier who subsequently worked for the Atomic Energy Commission during the Cold War, Freeman was born in, and subsequently spent much time at, her grandparents’ house in Oak Ridge, Tenn, where the uranium was refined for the bomb that struck Hiroshima. Despite many markers of a conventional American childhood—i.e., serving as a Brownie Scout, watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—other details Freeman recalls are both strange and quietly sinister, such as men being whited out in family photographs. When, one day, she happens upon a deer giving birth, she wonders if the shaking, awkwardly moving fawn has been mutated, before realizing what she had actually seen was a “beautiful creature on the not-yet-brown grass of summer becoming what she was supposed to become.” Freeman’s work combines lyrical description and academic theory, bringing in the ideas of such theorists as Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin, along with personal accounts and examinations of cultural touchstones. In all these ways, Freeman attempts to untangle the strange web of her youth over the course of this evocative, quietly probing account. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/22/2018
Release date: 02/01/2019
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