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Atomically Correct: Janet Beard

Inequality of the sexes. Invisibility under Jim Crow. Nukes. Columbus author Janet Beard’s Atomic City Girls (due out this month from Harper-Collins) is a moving piece of historical fiction set in her East Tennessee hometown in the mid-’40s—but its explorations are as prescient as yesterday’s CNN headlines. Her story revolves around June Walker, an 18-year-old [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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Inequality of the sexes. Invisibility under Jim Crow. Nukes.

Columbus author Janet Beard’s Atomic City Girls (due out this month from Harper-Collins) is a moving piece of historical fiction set in her East Tennessee hometown in the mid-’40s—but its explorations are as prescient as yesterday’s CNN headlines.

Her story revolves around June Walker, an 18-year-old who hops off a bus in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and into a secretive world of security checks and supervised machine-work—where she and others like her have been made, unknowingly, the gears of nuclear war.

In real life, hundreds like June were part of the Manhattan Project, the clandestine creation of the war-ending nuclear bombs. Beard, who grew up in Oak Ridge, deftly paints a picture comprised of cultural familiarity and painstaking research.

“I search for the details of everyday life that will bring history to life and try to avoid imposing my 21st century ideas onto my characters, though I know some of that is inevitable.”

In this period of the 21st century—with the President going Twit-for-tat with the country’s most volatile leaders, and with a new renaissance in equality gaining steam, Beard’s novel feels like a callback and a call to arms.

“The educational and career opportunities that have opened up for women in the past seventy-five years are staggering,” she says.

Women streaming into factories to help the wartime effort was the first huge push out of the home and into the workplace. But getting one’s foot in the door is only the beginning of a long battle.

“The situation was viewed as temporary, like rationing or blackouts,” Beard added.

“[And] seventy-five years ago, the concept of sexual harassment didn’t exist. Army training materials for the ‘girls’ like my protagonist June coming to work at Oak Ridge, explicitly instructed them that, while they should dress and behave in an attractive manner, it was their responsibility to avoid unwanted attention from male supervisors.”

In real life, as in her story, ordinary people from all over the Tennessee region and beyond came to work in Oak Ridge. Brought together for a single effort, but split apart by imposed social circumstance, Beard creates interactions and ramifications between not only individuals, but groups of people. Black Americans were an important part of the Oak Ridge workforce. Unfortunately, the Army deferred to the institutional racism of the Jim Crow South, building a fully segregated town in Oak Ridge. Some of Beard’s characters embody this conflict, humanizing a story of coming together that is often at odds with itself. The universalities of the workers were aspirations of a better life, and a desire to serve their country.

“They moved to Oak Ridge for both money and patriotism and were generally proud to be a part of the war effort. People placed a degree of trust in the government that is hard to imagine today. That trust led to U.S. victory but allowed abuses of power, as well. Yet conflicts persist around the world, and the human cost of war stays depressingly constant throughout history.”

In other words: the more things change, they more they stay the same:

“Because the U.S. has now been involved in wars for so long, I think it is easy for those of us without a personal connection to the Armed Forces to ignore them,” Beard said.

In an era where constant conflict has become normalized, Beard follows a ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ philosophy. Using the raw material of history, and flavoring it with fiction, Beard builds a bridge from the present that can tell us a vivid and living story, while retracing our collective steps, as well as missteps.  

Beard, who made her first publishing splash with upstart Two Dollar Radio, will keep the launch of Atomic City Girls local with a reception at their headquarters (1124 Parsons Ave.) on February 6. For more, visit janetbeard.com.

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SoHud Collective provides fresh, stylish open-air experience

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The fear of ever going back inside of a building that’s not your home has become a general widespread worry. Open-air markets and garage sales are going to be a hot commodity this summer, and one new company has already taken a proactive and stylish approach to fill that need for consumers.

SoHud Collective is one of the first Columbus-based companies to corner this emerging market. The boutique pop-up shop, founded on the principle of friendships formed around fashion, art, and plants, hosted their first event on Saturday, May 23. 

And oh yeah, free lemonade.

An assortment of deep vintage finds at an incredibly reasonable price will leave you walking away with at least one purchase. The first installment took place on the corner of Hudson and Summit, across the street from Evolved Body Art.

The idea of a pop-up shop at this corner may be a new idea, but the format has been around for ages. Why SoHud Collective is important right now boils down to the consumers’ desire for an out-of-house experience and the employees’ obvious shared compassion for each other and thrifting.

“Fashion has been the glue to our friendship,” said the SoHud Collective, made up of Taylor, Connor, and Hayden. “We thrift together, we borrow each other’s clothing, and we send each other pictures of our outfits before we leave the house.”

A company formed on friendships in the SoHud region, the group behind this passion project has a specific goal in mind when passing down their used goods: keep the SoHud community stylin’. 

“Some of us have lost our jobs due to Covid-19, and this was a great way to keep our spirits up and redirect our attention to something that truly fulfills us,” the SoHud Collective said.

The items featured in the monthly pop-ups are passed down from an assortment of thrifting havens. Closets. Basements. Other thrift stores. Grandmas.

From shoes to shirts, Atari systems to board games, SoHud Collective is elevating the thrifting experience in the time of coronavirus.

“Currently, our focus is on elevating our display and merchandising technique to really give the people an experience and a fierce outfit and home decor to create that perfect photo for Instagram, the SoHud Collective said.”

SoHud Collective would like to thank Evolved for letting it use its parking lot for May’s edition of the pop-up. With a goal to have an installment of SoHud Collective once a month, the pop-up shop will return to the same location on June 27 (11 a.m. until 7 p.m.) and 28 (11 a.m. until 4 p.m.). 

A charity table where all proceeds will go to clothing the homeless LGBTQ youth in Columbus will be present as well. 

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Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour

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The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

https://nightout.com/events/marc-rebillet-drive-in-tour-columbus-ohio-south-drive-in-presented-by-hotbox/tickets.

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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