Over the years I’ve collected a bachelor’s degree in American studies, a master’s degree in history and folklore, and an extensive collection of black aprons. My first book, Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West was published by University of Nebraska Press in November of 2014.
Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West sheds new light on the hidden costs of the Cold War as it played out in the landscapes and communities of the American West. Based on eight years of oral history fieldwork and extensive research into declassified federal documents, archival records, journalistic coverage, and epidemiological studies, the book is a compelling argument for the legitimacy of ordinary people’s stories as historical evidence. Downwind explores the process via which citizens become aware of environmental contamination in their communities and learn to navigate the industry, media, and federal rhetoric which often accompanies that contamination. “With particular details and personal anguish, downwinder and uranium-affected storytellers have for five decades testified to the ravages of the Cold War, bringing home the truth that all wars—no matter how conceptual they may seem—occur in actual places, where actual people live, grow food, and raise children. They remind us that national security is more costly and complicated than we have been led to believe. No matter their politics, many of those who encounter these stories find their understanding of American history unalterably changed.”
I also have volumes of scribbled-in-notebooks, and dozens of essay and poetry ideas that end up on orderpad notes. Some of them make it onto this blog.
I live with my husband Ryan, our son Callum, and our dogs Assata and Annie in a dear eighty-year old house a few hills away from the Salish Sea, on the shoulder of Cascadia (Seattle). I am cobble together a living writing, editing, and doing oral history work, while waitressing at a restaurant that shall remain nameless. I’ve been slinging food on and off since I was 18, because it pays the bills, gives me time to research and write and take care of my family, and doesn’t ask too much of my mind. Someday I would like to put away my aprons.
Ryan is a radical constructivist who teaches third grade at the school near our home. He is brilliant at what he does, and his students are already starting small beautiful revolutions. I’ve been in love with him for nine years and counting, and I learn from him all the time. He is passionate, eloquent, spontaneous, intentional, and wholeheartedly dedicated to living fully in the moment and working for a kinder and more just world.
Callum is four. His vocabulary is surpassing both of ours, he’s already kind of a kickass soccer player, and he can read for hours without getting bored. He can beat me in an argument any day of the week. He loves his friends, vegetables, books, trains, birds, beautiful rocks, excavators, the beach, and his dog sisters, he gives incredible hugs, he is smart as a whip, and he swears in context.
Assata is a Bernese Mountain Dog we picked up ten miles south of Kansas six years ago. Annie is a rescued Great Pyrenees mix who joined our family the summer Callum was born. They are both sweet, clumsy, and full of love.
We eat out of our garden pretty much every day, go thru sixty pounds of dogfood a month, and take extravagant joy in cooking, baking, and eating. We own too many books and exactly enough records, most of which are sitting in boxes in the garage. We are perfectly at home living out of backpacks. We believe in social justice, equity, and wind power. Our friends and family are as spectacular as they come.
We get by: the most important work doesn’t pay well, but we have more than enough of all the things that matter.
Times are strange in America, as always, and while the future cannot be anticipated, I am glad to say that these are the most satisfying days of my life.