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Author of ‘The Girls of Atomic City’ to visit WKU Sept. 22

Denise Kiernan, author of The Girls of Atomic City: Life in a Secret City of the Manhattan Project, will visit WKU on Sept. 22 for a lecture and gallery reception.


Author Denise Kiernan will visit WKU on Sept. 22 for a reception and lecture.

The Girls of Atomic City is the true story of young women living in a secret government city during World War II while unknowingly working on the first atomic bomb. Kiernan’s lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Van Meter Hall; a book signing will follow. Admission is free.

In her lecture, Kiernan will take audiences into a top-secret world where young women and men lived and worked surrounded by spies and secrecy, forbidden to speak of their work, even to each other, as the United States worked to face the challenges of World War II and the Manhattan Project raced to harness nuclear power.

A pre-lecture reception with Kiernan and photographer Ed Westcott will be held at 6 p.m. at Mass Media and Technology Hall atrium and gallery where more than 50 historic photographs of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Japan days after the bombs were dropped will be on display.

The exhibit of historic photographs by Westcott and Joe O’Donnell — A Secret Beneath the Ridge: How a small Southern town helped end World War II — will be on display Sept. 14-Nov. 21. Gallery hours are 3 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Friday. Admission is free.

Westcott worked for the U.S. government in the Oak Ridge area during the Manhattan Project in the 1940s and was one of the only people allowed to have a camera on the Oak Ridge plants during this secretive time of the development of the atomic bomb. O’Donnell was a photojournalist for the United States Information Agency. As a Marine, he was one of the first foot soldiers on the ground in Japan immediately after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Westcott’s images inspired Kiernan to write The Girls of Atomic City. The book is a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and NPR Bestseller, and was named as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Best Books of 2013.

Kiernan’s work has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Discover and many more publications. She has also worked in television, serving as head writer for ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” during its Emmy award-winning first season and has produced for media outlets such as ESPN and MSNBC.

The events are sponsored by Potter College of Arts & Letters, the WKU History Department and the School of Journalism & Broadcasting.

Contact: Tim Broekema, (270) 745-3005

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