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Half-Life of a Secret: Emily Strasser in conversation with Hannah Palmer

Event date: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2023 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Join us for an evening in conversation with Hannah Palmer for Emily Strasser's "Half-Life Of A Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History."

Join the Georgia Center for the Book and Charis Books and More for an evening with authors Emily Strasser and Hannah Palmer for Strasser's Georgia debut of Half-Life Of A Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please register here:

We reccommend pre-ordering your copy of Half-Life Of A Secret from our friends at Charis Books & More, the bookseller for this event. Pre-ordered copies may be picked up at the library the evening of the event, and will be ready for signing. You may also use this link to order a signed copy to be shipped to you. PURCHASE 

We are committed to a safe environment. For the safety of our invited speakers, staff, and all attendees, we respectfully request that masks be worn in the venue for the duration of the event. We are currently limiting the capacity of the Auditorium to promote social distancing, so registration is required.

About Half-Life Of A Secret

In 1942, the US government began construction on a sixty-thousand-acre planned community named Oak Ridge in a rural area west of Knoxville, Tennessee. Unmarked on regional maps, Oak Ridge attracted more than seventy thousand people eager for high-paying wartime jobs. Among them was author Emily Strasser's grandfather George, a chemist. All employees—from scientists to secretaries, from military personnel to construction workers—were restricted by the tightest security. They were provided only the minimum information necessary to perform their jobs.

It wasn't until three years later that the citizens of Oak Ridge, and the rest of the world, learned the true purpose of the local industry. Oak Ridge was one of three secret cities constructed by the Manhattan Project for the express purpose of developing the first atomic bomb, which devastated Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

In Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History, Emily Strasser exposes the toxic legacy—political, environmental, and personal—that forever polluted her family, a community, the nation, and the world. Sifting through archives and family memories, and traveling to the deserts of Nevada and the living rooms of Hiroshima, she grapples with the far-reaching ramifications of her grandfather's work. She learns that during the three decades he spent building nuclear weapons, George suffered from increasingly debilitating mental illness. Returning to Oak Ridge, Strasser confronts the widespread contamination resulting from nuclear weapons production and the government's disregard for its impact on the environment and public health. With brilliant insight, she reveals the intersections between the culture of secrecy in her family and the institutionalized secrecy within the nuclear industry, which persists, with grave consequences, to this day.

Emily Strasser is based in Minneapolis, where she received her MFA from the University of Minnesota. Her work has appeared in Catapult, Ploughshares, Guernica, Colorado Review, The Bitter Southerner, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and Gulf Coast, among others. She was also the presenter of the 2020 BBC podcast "The Bomb." Her writing has been honored by awards and fellowships including the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest, an AWP Intro Award, the W.K. Rose Fellowship, the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Creative Writing, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. She was a 2019 McKnight Writing Fellow. Half-Life of a Secret is her first book.

Hannah Palmer is an urban designer and writer known for her memoir Flight Path: A Search For Roots Beneath The World’s Busiest Airport, describing her personal experience as well as research into communities destroyed for the expansion of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Her work grew into an environmental campaign to restore the headwaters of Georgia’s Flint River, developing into the project “Finding the Flint.” This multi-disciplinary initiative works to mitigate the consequences of urbanization and its impact on the environment. Palmer also founded the “Atlanta Creek League,” which gamifies local stewardship of creeks of the three main Atlanta watersheds: the South River, the Flint River, and the Chattahoochee River.

Event address: 
Decatur Library
215 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA 30030
Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History By Emily Strasser Cover Image
ISBN: 9780813197197
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University Press of Kentucky - April 4th, 2023

Event Summary: 
Join the Georgia Center for the Book and Charis Books and More for an evening with authors Emily Strasser and Hannah Palmer for Strasser's Georgia debut of Half-Life Of A Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History.