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Atomic-bomb history includes works about the communities of workers attached to the main installations where the first nuclear weapon was built. Kiernan's contribution covers Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site of enormous factories built to separate uranium isotopes. A type of oral history, Kiernan's account derives from her intensive interviews with 10 women who, in their youth, labored in a range of occupations at Oak Ridge, from janitor to machine operator to secretary to engineer. With surrounding scaffolding of the scientific fundamentals and the 1942-45 technical development of the bomb, the narrative runs as a collection of individuals' life stories that recall circumstances of recruitment and the spartan conditions at Oak Ridge, on and off the job. Some commonalities of experience include the secrecy in which the women worked and the discrimination they endured (racial segregation in the case of the janitor; sexism in the cases of white women workers). Kiernan snugly fits original research into the creation story of Oak Ridge and should engage readers interested in both women's history and the background of the atomic bomb.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Kiernan (Signing Their Lives Away) writes compellingly of the women who toiled in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Living and working with thousands of others in a secret city built almost overnight, those involved in the "Project" were unaware that they were contributing to the most revolutionary scientific discovery of the 20th century. Moving between the individual narratives of the women workers and the story of the development of atomic fusion, Kiernan emphasizes the secretive nature of the work yet gives readers a greater understanding of the larger historical context. The endnotes provide comprehensive information about primary sources consulted as well as oral interviews Kiernan undertook with surviving workers. However, no complete bibliography is included. VERDICT This work complements Russell Olwell's At Work in the Atomic City: A Labor and Social History of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Kiernan capably captures the spirit of women's wartime opportunities and their sacrifices in what is ultimately a captivating narrative. Recommended reading for popular history fans.-Kathryn Wells, Fitchburg State Univ. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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During WWII, Oak Ridge, Tenn., was one unlikely epicenter of the Manhattan Project, the top secret program that produced the atomic bomb. Selected in 1942 for its remoteness, the area, "a big war site" hiring at top dollar, immediately boomed; from across the U.S., tens of thousands of workers streamed in-many of them women looking to broaden their horizons and fatten their purses. Fully integrated into the system, women worked every job, from courier to chemist. They found an "instant community" with "no history," but also "a secret city... [and] a project whose objective was largely kept from them." Living conditions were Spartan-urine samples and guards were intrusive constants-but the women lived their lives. Kiernan's (Signing Their Lives Away) interviewees describe falling in love and smuggling in liquor in tampon boxes. But like everyone else, those lives were disrupted by news of Hiroshima. "Now you know what we've been doing all this time," said one of the scientists. Many moved on; others stayed-Atomic City had become home. But for the women of Oak Ridge, "a strange mix of... pride and guilt and joy and shame" endured. This intimate and revealing glimpse into one of the most important scientific developments in history will appeal to a broad audience. 16-page b&w insert. Agent: Yfat Reiss Gendell, Foundry Literary + Media. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.