A Girl's Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America's Secret Desert

A Girl's Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America's Secret Desert

by Karen Piper

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Overview

A surreal and poignant coming of age on a secretive missile facility, and "an incredible view of...life in a town built for war."—Booklist

The China Lake missile range is located in a huge stretch of the Mojave Desert, about the size of the state of Delaware. It was created during the Second World War, and has always been shrouded in secrecy. But people who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, with domestic routines and everyday dilemmas, and four of them were Karen Piper's parents, her sister, and—when she needed summer jobs—herself. Her dad designed the Sidewinder, which was ultimately used catastrophically in Vietnam. When her mom got tired of being a stay-at-home mom, she went to work on the Tomahawk. Once, when a missile nose needed to be taken offsite for final testing, her mother loaded it into the trunk of the family car, and set off down a Los Angeles freeway. Traffic was heavy, and so she stopped off at the mall, leaving the missile in the parking lot.

Piper sketches in the belief systems—from Amway's get-rich schemes to propaganda in The Rocketeer to evangelism, along with fears of a Lemurian takeover and Charles Manson—that governed their lives. Her memoir is also a search for the truth of the past and what really brought her parents to China Lake with two young daughters, a story that reaches back to her father's World War II flights with contraband across Europe. Finally, it recounts the crossroads moment in a young woman's life when she finally found a way out of a culture of secrets and fear, and out of the desert.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399564543
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Karen Piper is the award-winning author of The Price of Thirst, Left in the Dust, and Cartographic Fictions. She has received the Sierra Nature Writing Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award and fellowships from the Huntington, Carnegie Mellon, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is currently a professor of literature and geography at the University of Missouri.

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Chapter One
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Excerpted from "A Girl's Guide to Missiles"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Karen Piper.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Becoming China Lakers 1

Part 2 A Teenage Weaponeer 113

Part 3 Dynamic Instability 159

Part 4 The Cold War at Home 169

Part 5 Anything Can Be a Weapon 211

Part 6 Off Target 245

Part 7 Life without Weapons 271

Acknowledgments 305

Author's Note 309

Works Cited 311

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