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

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While Karen Piper’s childhood is unlikely to be similar to that of her readers, A Girl’s Guide to Missiles is hauntingly familiar in its portrayal of her adolescent desire to know more about the world she grew up in. China Lake Naval Weapons Center, a place where “things were supposed to explode,” becomes the neighborhood in which she learns who she is at a time when America was on the same journey. Part Cold War memoir and part coming of age story, Piper’s latest book is hard to put down.

As Piper contemplates what drove her parents to choose a profession that places their teenage daughters in precarious situations, namely the act of living near live weapons, she gets at much of what adolescence is about. We don’t, as we age, simply become adults ourselves, but we come to terms with the humanity and reality of those around us, especially our parents. As Piper witnesses her mother’s tears at the failure of the missiles she helped design as well as her father’s crisis of conscience over faked testing results, she sees the complexity of the world is far greater than she could have imagined.

Ultimately, A Girl’s Guide to Missiles is about the things we think we know, the things we come to know, and the things we wish we didn’t know. It’s a truly American story that reveals how a family can be a part of history and war in ways bigger than themselves.


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Author Karen Piper
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Viking
Publish Date 2018-09-14
ISBN 9780399564543
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue Mar-19
Category Biographies & Memoirs
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