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Emily Strasser to Participate in the Kentucky Book Festival with “Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History”

Emily Strasser to Participate in the Kentucky Book Festival with “Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History”

August 18, 2023




What will Kentucky Book Festival visitors find on your table?

Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History is a deeply researched memoir that traces my journey to confront the legacy of my grandfather’s work—from the familial to the environmental to the international—building nuclear weapons in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I travel from Oak Ridge, to the Nevada Test Site, to Hiroshima as I explore family secrets, national silence, mental illness, environmental degradation, and the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons on the most intimate and global scales. The book weaves the personal and the political, the reported and the lyric, to ask questions about guilt, responsibility, complicity, home, land, and love.



Whom do you invite to stop by? Who will benefit from reading your book?

Readers who like memoir, history, family history/ ancestry, science, and environmental writing may all be interested in this book. I’ve been told by readers that you don’t need to have any particular interest in science or nuclear weapons to find the story, which is part memoir, part researched investigation, and part detective quest, compelling.

Could you please tell us something curious about you and/or your book?

A research trip that didn’t appear in the book was my visit to the abandoned psychiatric hospital where my grandfather was hospitalized several times before being medically retired from the nuclear plant. The hospital is now run by paranormal investigators. My tour there was truly bizarre. Ask me about it!

Is this your first time participating in Kentucky Book Festival? If yes – what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve participated before – what was your favorite experience at the Festival?

This will be my first time at the festival, and in Lexington at all! I’m looking forward to connecting with other writers and readers, buying more books than I should, and, hopefully, seeing the city a bit. In 2020, I featured Lexington chef Sam Fore in an essay about deviled eggs for The Bitter Southerner. I’ve been wanting to try her food ever since. Tell me where else I should eat!


Emily Strasser’s award-winning essays have appeared in Ploughshares, Colorado Review, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and elsewhere. In Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History, Emily Strasser exposes the toxic legacy political that forever polluted her family, a community, the nation, and the world.