Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams

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Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams


Refuge; An Unnatural History of Family and Place, by Terry Tempest Williams, is a thought-provoking, sentimental book that explores both the unnatural and the natural events that take place in her life. The deception and lies of the reports presented by the United States government, which lead to the fall out of atomic bomb testing in Utah in the 1950's and the rise of the Great Salt Lake and its effect on bird’s serve as the backdrop of this book. As Williams struggles to deal with the ramifications of her mother’s terminal cancer, she seeks sanctuary at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Her family and their well-being is a major priority in her life. When the world around Williams seems overwhelming, her only escape is the Great Salt Lake Basin where she can find. In fact, Williams either unwittingly or wittingly overemphasizes her intimacy with the birds and under emphasizes the direct, devastating effect the atomic fallout of September 7, 1957 had on the health of her family, thereby losing a prime opportunity to make a dramatic statement about the relationship between cancer related illnesses and atomic bomb testing.

This story begins in 1983 as the Great Salt Lake in Utah was rising to above normal heights. Over the course of the next seven years from 1983 Williams closely followed the lake levels and the impact on the various species of birds. The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of the ancient Lake Bonnevile which had covered 20,000 square miles of Utah, parts of eastern Nevada, and southern Idaho(Great Salt Lake, 3): “The lake ecosystem is one of the most important wildlife habitats in the Western Hemisphere and has been for at least 8,000 ...


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Alexander, G. Thomas. Radiation Death and Deception. Retrieved April 5, 2005 from www.historytogo.utha.gov/radiation.html.

Great Salt Lake: More Than Meets the Nose. Retrieved April 8, 2005 from http://www.cnnn.com/2003/TravelDestinations/11/05great.salt.lake.ap//

Seegmiller, Janet Burton. No Clear Testing and the Downwinders. Retrieved April 5, 2005 from www.historytogo.utah.gov/nuctest.html.

Stum, Marlin. Great Salt Lake-Haven for Birds. Retrieved April 8, 2005 from http://www.stoplegacyhighway.org/gsl.htm

Summer, David Thomas. Testimony, Refuge, and the Senses of Place-A Conservation with Terry Tempest Williams. Retrieved April 16, 2005 from http://weberstudies.weber.edu/archive/archive%20D

Ward, Chip. Cowboys in Gas Masks Find a Damn Good Place to Dump Used Razor Blades. Retrieved April 8, 2005 from http://home.comcast.net/~kknowlto/orion.htm

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