A Girl's Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper

A Girl's Guide to Missiles

A poignant, surreal, and fearlessly honest look at growing up on one of the most secretive weapons installations on earth, by a young woman who came of age with missilesThe China Lake missile range is located in a huge stretch of the Mojave Desert, about the size of the state of Delaware. It was created during the Second World War, and has always been shrouded in secrecy. But people who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, ...

Details A Girl's Guide to Missiles

TitleA Girl's Guide to Missiles
Release DateAug 14th, 2018
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography Memoir, History, Biography

Reviews A Girl's Guide to Missiles

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    This book is about the author's childhood in the Mojave Desert while her parents worked designing missiles at China Lake. It's also about civilian vs military life, fundamentalism, and how much of childhood can be held on to. I enjoyed some funny descriptions of Eugene and Oregon weather from the perspective of someone accustomed to desert climate. I got a little bogged down in the middle but appreciated how so many topics come back around in the...
  • Jean
    I am very familiar with China Lake. I found this book interesting about growing up on the China Lake Naval Base. Piper’s parents both were scientist working on the base. Piper tells of her life as a child growing up on the base and as an adult working on the base. I was disappointed that Piper did not go into detail about life as a child in a small, closed and structured community.The book has quite a bit of humor. Overall, I was disappointed i...
  • Aria
    ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. --- So, firstly I just want to say that I don't understand why people think this is a book about missiles. It says right there in the title that it is about growing up. Sure, it's about growing up in a particular place, but it unequivocally states that this is a book about "growing up." Honestly, if it had been a book about missiles I'd have been quite irritated at having been mislea...
  • Penmouse
    Very few books make me angry but A Girl's Guide to Missles by author Karen Piper angered me enough that I quit reading her book. I returned her book to Amazon due to Piper's poor research and due to the book's poor editing. I have a deep understanding of China Lake history and how China Lake operates. China Lake was founded by the United States Navy during World War II. Today, China Lake supports national defense through research and development....
  • Rebecca
    I received a free copy of this e-book from the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. 2.5 StarsI wanted this book as soon as I saw the title. If I ever wrote a book about my passion for Cape Canaveral, I would have used that title. By the end of the book, I felt the title was used because it sounds good, not because it accuratly reflects what happens in the book.I am fascinated by the history of missile test sites, especially...
  • Pamela
    Hmmm . . . I'm not sure what to say. Dynamic times to grow up in, I'm sure. Certainly enough material for an interesting memoir. Plus, Karen Piper has a funny bone - a bit droll, but funny all the same. The book is also culturally expository: cold war fears and fads, Manson and other newsworthy craziness, Watergate, Aliens and Cults, Beatlemania. However, not everything was out and out factual. And though I didn't expect State or military Secrets...
  • Matt Hiebert
    No, this is not a textbook about military ordinance. For me, A Girl's Guide to Missiles is a story about “emergence.” It is the memoir of a woman coming of age in the 80s, rising out of a barren culture of inflexible religion within the desert setting of China Lake, one of America's foremost weapons development facilities.The story begins with Piper as a child, relocating from the Pacific Northwest to the hardscrabble of a southern California...
  • Emmkay
    Readable, slightly meandery memoir. The author grew up on the China Lake Station in California during the Cold War, where both her parents worked in weapons development. The parts of the book about this strange milieu and about her parents were especially interesting, as was the part about her sojourn at a downright disturbing private Christian school, where the children silently completed booklets in cubicles. Lost its way a little in a thicket ...
  • Amy
    A surreal and honest look at growing up on one of the most secretive weapons installations on earth, by a young woman who came of age with missiles. The China Lake missile range located in the Mojave Desert was created during the Second World War, and has always been shrouded in secrecy. People who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, with domestic routines and everyday dilemmas, and four of them were Karen Piper's parents,...
  • Liz
    Perhaps 4 stars worth of enjoyment, but only 3 based on comprehensive, coherent delving into specific topics. I always enjoy memoir non-fiction, as a personal perspective provides "story" in addition to information. I liked the behind-the-scenes look at weapons development from the late Viet Nam War era onwards, and would have liked even more detail than we got. Not sure how much that limitation was due to the classified nature of some of the mis...
  • Sarah
    My feelings about this book seem to echo most of the reviews that have already been written for Goodreads. This is a fine coming of age memoir about a woman who happened to grow up in China Lake, but it is not a book about China Lake. What she shared about "America's Secret Desert" was interesting, as was her fundamentalist Christian schooling (horrifying is probably a better descriptor than interesting in this instance), but overall the book fel...
  • Kira FlowerChild
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as indicated by my four-star rating (equivalent to most reviewers' five-star ratings, since I reserve five stars for recognized classics). I was in the Air Force many years ago and was stationed in Southern California, so I am quite familiar with the landscape the author describes. I also grew up in a Christian fundamentalist household, so I could relate to those experiences as well, although like the author, I am ...
  • The Folding
    At its core, Karen Piper’s memoir “A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing up in America’s Secret Desert” is about war. However, it’s not just about military warfare and the weapons used to wage it, developed in the laboratories in California’s China Lake Desert where Piper’s parents worked and raised her and her sister. Pairing keen childhood observations with contemporary thoughts on the way the world has shifted since her adolescen...
  • Jodi
    This was an advanced readers copy, that I recieved through the Goodreads Giveaways. I might not have bought this book, if I hadn't won it, but I would have missed out on a sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, and sometimes sad, description of growing up in a place where every life is spent building bombs to wipe out our enemies...from WWII to Korea to Vietnam to Afghanistan and beyond. Karen describes a childhood of secrets learned and kept; of the ...
  • Barb
    Piper grew up in China Lake, CA, in the Mojave Desert where her parents worked on missiles. She describes growing up in the shroud of secrecy, trying to accept life’s dangers in the presence of missiles, the awareness of existing and impending wars, the mishmash of politics that influence the community, and the adjustment to life outside of the protected enclave. She talks about boyfriends, marriage, divorce, her father’s descent into Alzheim...
  • Valerie
    I checked this out of the library on a whim, and read it immediately. Karen Piper's story of growing up at China Lake, and being an unwitting part of the military industrial complex is beautifully told, and frightening.
  • Rosemary
    Solid memoir. Covers some fascinating topics, including missiles. What I found most interesting was how a "Reagan Girl" grew up and changed her spots. Worked well for me as an audio book and the writing was quite beautiful.
  • BookGypsy
    A coming of age like you've never read before. Imagine growing up living on the China Lake Missle Range. I was riveted by this story. Truely a remarkable read.Dawnny-Book GypsyNovels N LatteBook Blog
  • Jackie Mcgrath
    It's so good. Read it if you have parents, or a sister, or an interest in the history of military/technology. Read it for a well-told story about a family and a country. Read it because there is far more to it than missiles. Or girls.
  • Kathleen Gray
    This is very much a coming of age memoir with some details about China Lake, not a memoir about China Lake. Karen Piper has an interesting background, with parents who worked in the missile business (for want of a better description) and who had a strong religious bent. Her experiences with evangelism and struggle to move beyond that belief system, as well as her various relationships, form the bulk of the story. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. ...
  • Sieglinde
    Have you ever read a biography or a memoir and decided you did not like the subject? Well in this case I think the author is a dork. First for the good stuff. I love the way she describes the desert. She obviously loves it. I worked at China Lake for 12 years and lived in Ridgecrest for 2 more years after I retired and I worked for the Navy at a sister base before that so I knew some of the history she wrote about. I contacted my former coworkers...
  • Janice
    I enjoyed this ARC. I wish the author had gone into a bit more detail on life at China Lake. As soon as she became a teenager there was far too much about her various relationships with men. None of which were interesting. I would also have liked to learn more about her academic career. For the most part, her parents were to me, by far the most interesting characters in this memoir. A lot less of Karen and a lot more of her parents please. This i...
  • Jenny Karraker
    Having grown up in the same time frame that this author writes about, I identified with many of her observations about the nuclear arms race. It was funny to see the competition between her and her sister about their summer jobs and who had the most secret clearance. It was interesting to hear her process her strict, religious background, something that seemed important to her deep down at a spiritual level, yet became just a set of rules that sh...
  • Christen
    I enjoyed this memoir. I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition of war and religion in the author's life. I related to her religious upbringing and enjoyed the history of weapons her family made and then living with the effects of making technology and then having no control over the use.Thanks to Edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group for the digital ARC.
  • Andrea Olson
    If you want to learn anything about China Lake, this is NOT the book for you.Just some hippy chick talking about her life, which has minor overlap with China Lake, but she talks more about Eugene Oregon college life than the base.
  • Alicia
    Bummer of a memoir. Dysfunctional family relationships, dysfunctional work relationships, constant foreshadowing of worse to come. Read first third, skimmed the rest (because book club).
  • Ron
    Karen Piper won awards for writing on water and climate issues, but in A Girl's Guide to Missiles, she delves into her past to try and make sense of her present. She had hit a point in her life where a trip down memory lane would help her make sense of why she is where she is, why she thinks as she does, and make sense of several mysteries that have bugged her for years. Piper frames her biography with a trip back to China Lake Research Base to v...
  • Ask Mor
    I knew of the NAWS China Lake installation as a child in the 1980s only because my great uncle worked and lived on base as an electrical engineer. Little did I know I would end up there as an adult when my husband's military career would lead us to the Californian desert. I enjoyed reading about those things that are exclusively "Ridgecrest" and military base China Lake. Those things that are local land marks that are still here today. And the ...
  • Ren
    For my personal taste, I would have given this 2 stars - but, gave it 3 thinking about other readers. I'm starting to realize that I prefer my memoirs more focused and thematic (David Sedaris, Ariel Levy, Augusten Burroughs, and The Glass Castle). The thing about these types of memoirs...the titles of their books really set you up for the theme of the book. Even The Glass Castle, which walked you through a lot of lifespan was anchored in the pare...
  • Andee
    I liked much of this book, and a few parts not so much. I liked learning about the culture of China Lake and the surrounding areas, as well as the jobs people had with various factions of the military there. I very much enjoyed reading about the environment in the desert - the animals, flora, fauna, etc. I wasn’t crazy about her years as a bohemian hippie, but that speaks strongly to the idealism, activism, and idiocy so many young adults acqui...