cover image The Bomb Cloud

The Bomb Cloud

Tyler Mills. Unbound Edition, $28 (330p) ISBN 979-8-9892333-0-4

In this potent and formally inventive memoir, poet and Sarah Lawrence writing professor Mills (City Scattered) unravels the circumstances surrounding her grandfather’s possible witness to the Trinity atomic bomb test. When Mills and her mother visited Mills’s grandfather near the end of his life, he handed them a personal scrapbook he claimed had long been “classified.” Thumbing through the album later, Mills discovered a photo of “an atomic cloud towering in the sky,” which set her on a quest to determine whether the image came from the 1945 detonation of the first atomic bomb in White Sands, N.Mex.—and if so, to what degree her grandfather may have been involved. The investigation took Mills from conversations with her mother to research about the bomb’s ecological effects, and eventually, to White Sands itself. She recounts her questioning and meditates on “the erasure of peoples, places, and facts that cloud the development of the atomic bomb” in lyrical, sometimes cryptic essays, which are accentuated with collages, photographs, and poems. The results draw immense power both from Mills’s forceful prose and her urgings to “think about the self in relation to history... and ways of experiencing the catastrophic.” Adventurous readers will treasure this poetic, haunting excavation of family legacy, national history, and the nature of memory. Photos. (Mar.)