Book 1: The Girls of Atomic City

My first book arrived this past week. Denise Kiernan’s degree is probably is women’s studies with an historical focus. (Her other titles are a give-away.) Anyway, it is well researched with occasional repetition, but she documents the uranium enrichment process very thoroughly as she writes about the different positions and workloads each woman had.

The tragedy of America’s treatment of blacks is once again reinforced. Even through Roosevelt said no discrimination, the facility was built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee assuring that treatment would be very different. Married whites had housing. Married blacks were forced to live in separate quarters, and they could not bring their children. Recreational facilities like the swimming pool. roller rink, and theater were for whites only. White single women had single or double rooms in a house with a kitchen. Four black women were relegated to a 16×16′ “hut” and were not allowed to cook. Black men lived in barracks like soldiers. Pay wages and more were disparate. White women also faced discrimination, especially those with higher degrees. (Sounds a bit like adjunct faculty, doesn’t it?)

The worse for all of them was that they lived in a gated community behind barbed wire and had to wear passes at all times. They were watched by “creeps” who recorded and reported their activities and what they talked about. They has no idea what they were working on, only that it would end the war.

Kiernan fills in a large gap in my historical knowledge. I knew Oak Ridge existed, but the details were very much unknown.

It’s a good selection and it was a New York Times bestseller that I was unaware of.

So thank you both for the first installment of my reading agenda for the year. I’m looking forward to the next one.