Atomic Narratives and American Youth

Coming of Age with the Atom, 1945–1955


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About the Book

Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, numerous “atomic narratives”—books, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, movies, and television programs—addressed the implications of the bomb. Post–World War II youth encountered atomic narratives in their daily lives at school, at home and in their communities, and were profoundly affected by what they read and saw.

This multidisciplinary study examines the exposure of American youth to atomic narratives during the ten years following World War II. In addition, it examines the broader “social narrative of the atom,” which included educational, social, cultural, and political activities that surrounded and involved American youth. The activities ranged from school and community programs to movies and television shows to government-sponsored traveling exhibits on atomic energy. The book also presents numerous examples of writings by postwar adolescents, who clearly expressed their conflicted feelings about growing up in such a tumultuous time, and shows how many of the issues commonly associated with the sixties generation, such as peace, fellowship, free expression, and environmental concern, can be traced to this earlier generation.

About the Author(s)

Editor and writer Michael Scheibach received his doctorate in American studies and taught history, humanities, and writing as an adjunct professor for several years. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Bibliographic Details

Michael Scheibach

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: photos, chronology, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1566-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1266-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Prologue: Sunday, August 5, 1945      1
Preface      7
Introduction: Postwar Adolescents and the Atomic Bomb      15

1. Future Homemakers and Boy Cadets:
School Activities for “Atom-Agers”      23
2. Mouse Traps and Chain Reactions:
Atomic Education in the Classroom      50
3. Communism, Democracy, and Civil Defense:
High School Days and Drills      72
4. Brotherhood, Self-Reliance, and Survival:
Senior Scholastic in Text and Images      104
5. Growing Up “in a Circus Like This”:
Atomic Repercussions in the Movies      134
6. Paper Bombs and Atomic Airwaves:
The World of Print, Radio, and Television      153
7. “…to Escape the Fury of the Blast”:
Young Voices of a New Generation      175
8. The Fusion of Youth Culture      203

Epilogue: 1955      212
Appendix A: Atomic Narratives for the Classroom      215
Appendix B: “Hydrogen, the Explosive”      224
Appendix C: Film and Television Chronology      229
Notes      233
Bibliography      256
Index      277

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “recommended”—Choice
  • “profoundly important…discerning and rigorous…analyzes a wealth of material…thought-provoking…Scheibach’s unprecedented inquiry provides invaluable insights…significant”—Booklist
  • “skillfully written”—History: Reviews of New Books
  • “contends that atomic narrative and the ‘social fallout’ from the development of the atomic bomb shaped a generation, just like the Depression a generation before it”—American Literature