Denise Kiernan Event!

Remember when we read Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City?  If you enjoyed our discussion, I know you’ll be excited to hear about the upcoming discussion featuring Denise Kiernan herself! She’ll be speaking across the country throughout the year and coming to visit us here in Virginia in the next few weeks! A full range of dates and locations are available at her website, but here are the highlights for The Home Book Club members living in Virginia.

March 13th: 7:30 PM at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA

March 21st: 2:00 PM at the New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, VA

March 22nd: 2:00 PM at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, VA

See the book club discussion Part I, Part II, and Part III.

The Girls of Atomic City- Part III

Today we come to the dramatic conclusion of our gripping three-part series, featuring The Girls of Atomic City, by author Denise Kiernan.

Atomic bomb drop over Hiroshima

Atomic bomb drop over Hiroshima

Okay, our finale is not quite as dramatic as the book’s, but we will do our best to keep up with you, Denise Kiernan.

The Girls of Atomic City tells the true story of the men and women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee during World War II. None of them were natives of Oak Ridge. None of them grew up there. None of them visited their grannies in the local cemetery. Why?

tgoac_coverBecause Oak Ridge, Tennessee did not exist until 1942. It grew from the United States’ War Department’s need to develop, in secret, the technology that went into the Atomic bomb. The residents included the nation’s top scientists, government officials, a vast network of supporting personnel, and all of their families. What started as a secret site soon grew into a secret town, eventually becoming a secret city, complete with theaters, skating rinks, multiple cafeterias, and row upon row of identical prefab houses. It is against this backdrop that Kiernan recounts the stories of the remarkable men and women involved in the creation of the world’s most deadly military weapon.

The stories included range from the highly technical to the everyday, but so did life in Oak Ridge. Kiernan expertly recreated the feeling of only knowing part of the picture, a key feature in the format of the book and one of the reasons that I appreciated it so much. I’m officially a fan of all of these remarkable women: the ones who relocated to Oak Ridge and the one who wrote down their story. In the beginning, the reader gets bits and pieces of the policy and science that led to the creation of the atomic energy industry but gets far more of the excitement and nervousness of the young women involved as they travel to their new home. As the story progresses, pieces start to come together and the reader begins to appreciate how difficult life could be in this community of silent scientific breakthrough. When the bomb drops, literally, and the residents of Oak Ridge find out what they had been working on for those many long months, information is provided at an overwhelming speed. The “product” is finally named. The “gadget” is finally explained. The technical asides merge with the day-to-day accounts until the two are nearly indistinguishable. The world, the residents of Oak Ridge, and the reader finally know the big secret.

Visit for a reader’s guide, book club notes, and tons of photos, interviews, and other features. The Reading Group Guide is also available on publisher Simon & Schuster’s website. Included are questions to further your discussion, activities to help you “experience” life in Oak Ridge, and an interview with Denise Kiernan about her writing experience.

The Girls of Atomic City- Part II

Still reading The Girls of Atomic City in preparation for our discussion on Friday. And still loving it!

Today’s post is an author profile of Denise Kiernan, the woman behind The Girls of Atomic City. Her portfolio includes everything from The Indiana Jones Handbook to ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Most of her books focus on American history, specifically Revolutionary War-era history, with The Girls of Atomic City as an outlier, at least chronologically. Her list of published works include Signing Their Lives AwaySigning Their Rights Away, and Stuff Every American Should Know– all about the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and including lots of good ol’ American factoids. Those works, along with her guide to financial management for the freelancer, The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self Employed, all promise to be interesting and enlightening reads.  

Malaprops 1 LogoDenise Kiernan is a huge supporter of independently owned bookstores, most notably Malaprop’s, her local Asheville, NC joint, so head to your closest indie bookstore to pick up this one Denise-Kiernan-style. Malaprop’s will even get you a signed copy of her book, The Girls of Atomic City, and mail it to you “lickety-split” (her words). If you’re an Asheville resident, or wanting a good excuse for a road trip, head over there on November 30th. You may just see Denise Kiernan or her hubby, author Joe D’Agnese, helping out around the store <wink, wink>. It’s also available on Amazon for you techy-types. The Girls of Atomic City has landed her a spot on the coveted New York Times Best Seller List and the LA Times Best Seller List, along with a host of other awards and recognition. I think it’s going to be a book club favorite around the country.

She’s also an extremely talented and well-spoken interviewee. Seriously- even if you don’t read the book, you can take some public speaking tips from this lady. Click here to see a March 2013 The Daily Show interview with Denise Kiernan about The Girls of Atomic City: Part I, Part II

Visit her site to learn more about what she’s done and what she’s up to. And keep reading The Girls of Atomic City for our discussion on Friday! See you then!

The Girls of Atomic City- Part I

tgoac_coverOur discussion of Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City isn’t until Friday but I’m enjoying this book so much I just had to make my normal post into a series, featuring this book, its talented author, and the incredible story of these women.

The book tells the story of the women that worked in rural Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WWII, completing what seemed to them strange and disconnected tasks. Many of them came to work there to be a “vital part” of the war effort and work on a project that would “end the war”- with little more information to go on than that. They left home, most of them barely out of high school, and went to a secret facility to do an unknown job that they couldn’t talk about. When they got there, conditions were…well, here is one account of a new employee, Celia, entering the Oak Ridge facility:

Construction went on in every direction. The fences had been some of the first things to go up, and crews repurposed the barbed wire taken from many of the farms and homes that had been moved off the land. Celia couldn’t see any sidewalks, only wooden planks laid over the newly excavated ground. There were some houses, virtually identical, sitting side by side and lining the dirt roads. There were larger buildings, mostly white, similar in style and shape, not like the brick and stone and shingle of every other town she’d seen, or the soaring concrete and steel of the city she’d just left. Though the town was brand-new–less than a year old–somehow the mud managed to make everything seem run down.

– The Girls of Atomic City, pg. 37-38

The conditions didn’t improve much and the secretive nature of their work never changed. But the work at Oak Ridge certainly changed the war and the women themselves. If you enjoy learning more about history, in particular the behind-the-scenes support operations that were vital for the completion of world-changing events, this book is for you. If you enjoy reading about brave and remarkable people, willingly jumping into unknown and strange circumstances, this book is for you. If you enjoy a good story, full of memorable characters doing normal, everyday activities in extraordinary times, this book is for you. Denise Kiernan creates all of the above in The Girls of Atomic City, The Home Book Club’s latest selection.

Later this week, I’ll post an author profile on Denise Kiernan, writer, journalist, photographer- a real Renaissance woman. You definitely want to check back to hear about her experience interviewing these women and researching this book. And join us here on November 22nd for what promises to be a great discussion about this remarkable story.