MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

Fear Itself
Candida Lawrence
Denver, CO: Unbridled Books, 2004
202 pp., hardcover, $19.95
ISBN: 1-932961-01-1

Fear Itself is both a memoir and an account of life in the post-atomic bomb age. This is Candida Lawrence's third book in her memoirs, and one that focuses on her health, her efforts to have a child, and a background into the life of the people at work during the nuclear age.

The story of Candida's life in the 1940s as a young bride is compelling. Her husband was a junior physicist making plutonium before the war on behalf of the government. After the war he must put on an Army uniform for a year in trade for not serving during the war. They must travel from Berkeley to Los Alamos National Laboratory, then Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and last to Dayton, Ohio. Candida does what other young wives did back then: she followed her husband. But Candida must also work. First at the Oak Ridge government employment agency, where water fountains outside the door are labeled: White. Black. Then, more chillingly, in Dayton at the Monsanto Chemical Company. Candida works as an assistant to the safety engineer, where each Monday and Friday fingers are pricked for blood samples. All she knows is that she works in a "hot" building and must maintain a "clean" environment. Her boss has a Geiger counter on his desk, and she types up reports on white blood counts. When her white blood cell count drops, it leaves her wondering what "hot" really means.

Her husband is finally able to leave the military behind and goes back to work in Berkeley. So begins their three-year effort to have a child. Her only pregnancy ends in miscarriage and divorce. Years later she becomes pregnant and marries for a second time. She makes it to the ninth month before delivering a stillborn daughter with severe birth defects. Then another pregnancy, and another miscarriage. Many years pass before she is finally able to deliver a healthy baby girl. Another few years pass and a son is born.

Interspersed in the memoir are paragraphs from newspaper accounts of workers and radiation risks - part of Candida's obsession. Articles about uranium mine and mill workers, weapons workers at Hanford, Oak Ridge, Savannah River, Rocky Flats, Lawrence Livermore, and Los Alamos, and downwinders - people exposed to atomic weapons fallout. She also focuses on the Plutonium files: the secret medical experiments done by our government during the Cold War.

All of this leads to later chapters when she develops breast cancer. Readers cannot help but wonder how much her early exposure to radiation has led her from miscarriages to this latest development in her life. Fear Itself is both a memoir and the exploration of the role of government (and the secrets they keep), in our lives. But it does ultimately show that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

— Annette Aguayo

Order from:
Unbridled Books recommends your support your local bookstores.

Community Partners
and Resources

Table of Contents

". . . [I]t should be noted that the SEP [Springstead Estates Project] is, at best, in a conceptual stage and that it is totally speculative as to which, if any, aquifer would supply the SEP with water should the housing development ever be built."

— NRC Judge Thomas Moore
October 22, 2004

"Apparently the Government in Washington doesn't care about the health, safety and well-being of the 4,000 people who will be living in the Springstead community within five to ten years. This ruling is another example of how the NRC consistently ignores our communities' concerns about new uranium mining and why the Navajo Nation must step into this fight to protect our people."

— Johnny Livingston, President
Church Rock Chapter

Donate Now Through Network for Good

All donations are tax-deductible.
Thank you.

SRIC is part of the Stop Forever WIPP Coalition.
The nuclear waste dump is permitted to operate until 2024, but the federal government want to expand the amount and types of waste allowed with NO end date.
We need your help to protect New Mexico!

Donate through Smith's Rewards Program

Southwest Research and Information Center
105 Stanford SE
PO Box 4524
Albuquerque, NM 87196
fax: 505/262-1864

Shop at
and Support
Southwest Research and
Information Center