TaraShea Nesbit’s debut novel “The Los Alamos Wives,” casts a light on one of the most top-secret operations in American history: the Manhattan Project. Drawing from oral histories and diaries of the women behind the bomb, Nesbit crafted a beautiful testament to their story. YS sat down with the Boulderite author to chat about all things writing and what’s up next for her.
YS: There isn’t very much fiction literature about the Manhattan Project; how did you decide to make it the focus of your first book?
TSN: It all started because I was living up in Tacoma, Washington, and my friend worked at a high school that had a mushroom cloud as their mascot because this town was also a Manhattan Project town. And I just started thinking about loyalty and responsibility and I started doing a lot of research, but I kept wanting to go farther back, and that led me to the scientists. From there, I started thinking about the wives who didn’t know what their husbands were building and how they’re the source of all that we know now about it [the Manhattan Project]. They’re like the origins of our thoughts of the atomic legacy.
I like how the focus is on the wives who weren’t really in the know of what was going on around them.
I wanted to make more space in the world for their voices. I see a link between their story and contemporary America. We’re living in this age where we also don’t know what we’re helping to support. So in some ways I feel like we’re all the wives of the bomb.
You tell their story from a collective point of view; were you concerned that it would put off any readers?
I know that it’s not a way that readers are accustomed to accessing characters. Like, when we think of American fiction, we think a lot of a character-driven story. And this character is a group. But it really came about naturally when I was listening to these histories of the women; they would often go right away to “we,” like it was this reflex for them, and they meant the other wives. It was a way that they were willing to portray their sense of group identity.
Are you working on another book?
Yeah, it’s too early to say much about it, but it’s a 17th century transatlantic crossing from Europe to America. All of the people that are on this boat—like the fur trappers and financial backers, the kids—have this idea of a better life coming to America.
Right now you’re reading…
Perec’s “Species of Spaces.” He wants us to just think about what happens if we narrate the everyday; that’s nice.