Longing for the Bomb

Oak Ridge and Atomic Nostalgia

By Lindsey A. Freeman

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2237-8
    Published: April 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2238-5
    Published: April 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4579-5
    Published: April 2015

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Longing for the Bomb traces the unusual story of the first atomic city and the emergence of American nuclear culture. Tucked into the folds of Appalachia and kept off all commercial maps, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was created for the Manhattan Project by the U.S. government in the 1940s. Its workers labored at a breakneck pace, most aware only that their jobs were helping "the war effort." The city has experienced the entire lifespan of the Atomic Age, from the fevered wartime enrichment of the uranium that fueled Little Boy, through a brief period of atomic utopianism after World War II when it began to brand itself as "The Atomic City," to the anxieties of the Cold War, to the contradictory contemporary period of nuclear unease and atomic nostalgia. Oak Ridge's story deepens our understanding of the complex relationship between America and its bombs.

Blending historiography and ethnography, Lindsey Freeman shows how a once-secret city is visibly caught in an uncertain present, no longer what it was historically yet still clinging to the hope of a nuclear future. It is a place where history, memory, and myth compete and conspire to tell the story of America's atomic past and to explain the nuclear present.

About the Author

Lindsey A. Freeman is assistant professor of sociology at Simon Fraser University.
For more information about Lindsey A. Freeman, visit the Author Page.


“Freeman skillfully illuminates the lengthy half-lives of the founding generation’s memories in recounting Manhattan Project communities.”--Journal of American History

“Offers one of the clearest examples of how we have learned to see the means of destruction as our salvation.” --Southern Spaces

“Highly recommended.”--Choice

“A substantial contribution to the fields of atomic history, history and memory, and the intersection of social theory and social history.”--Journal of Southern History

"Insightful. . . . Has a serious mission: sifting through Oak Ridge’s myths and pleading for a more progressive vision."--Chapter 16

"A wonderful and unique addition to any collection of Tennessee history, Southern history, Southern culture, World War II, American history, sociology, and military projects, among others."--Tennessee Libraries

Multimedia & Links

Visit the author's website at lindseyfreeman.net.

Follow the author on Twitter @sociologybomb.