Full disclosure. I moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in January 1944 with my mom and sister after the Army Corps of Engineers finished building our house, so we could join my father who had been living there in a dormitory. I graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1960, and even lived there during our oldest son’s kindergarten year. The author, Lindsey Freeman, is a sociology professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. She moved from Oak Ridge to Morristown, Tennessee, when she was only a few months old, but visited her grandparents there often. In trying to describe what she is getting at in this book, she gleefully cites W. E. B. DuBois’s conclusion that sociology is “woefully imperfect,” but reassures the reader that she is aspiring to the “sociological poetry” that C. Wright Mills ascribed to James Agee’s, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. She places her musings about the town she aspires to illuminate by stating that she was born when Jimmy Carter was President, which means she is now in her forties and began recalling Oak Ridge during the 1980s and 1990s. This book is much more a memoir of a childhood than a sociological treatise, although it does occasionally muse about the atomic symbols that set Oak Ridge apart from the rest of East Tennessee, a contrast that obviously continues to attract her attention. "These discrete vignettes spark off each other, collectively producing a text that is kaleidoscopic, wondrous, and witty. Sometimes richly comic, sometimes just quirky, but never sentimental or sugary, the writing is wry, the gaze jaundiced; there is love and affection but not affectation. Freeman presents us with an intricately conceived and intensely expressed structure of feeling, decked out here in vibrant hues." - Graeme Gilloch.
Stanford, California: Redwood Press, 2019. 120 pages with Notes, References, and color photos. Trade paperback