Railroad Memoirs
Linda G. Niemann
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/07/2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-22283-1
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This classic account of self discovery and railroad life describes Linda Grant Niemann’s travels as an itinerant brakeman on the Southern Pacific. Boomer combines travelogue, Wild West adventure, sexual memoir, and closely observed ethnography. A Berkeley Ph.D., Niemann turned her back on academia and set out to master the craft of railroad brakeman, beginning a journey of sexual and subcultural exploration and traveling down a path toward recovery from alcoholism. In honest, clean prose, Niemann treks off the beaten path and into the forgotten places along the rail lines, finding true American characters with colorful pasts—and her true self as well.

Author Bio

Linda Grant Niemann teaches creative nonfiction at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. She is author of Railroad Noir: The American West at the End of the Twentieth Century (IUP, 2010).


“A candid, unsentimental, and un-sensationalized account of a woman's exploration into the diversity of her complex nature—sexual, intellectual, spiritual.”
 — Martha Banta, University of California, Los Angeles

“Ma[kes] the railroad experience come alive with all its grit, danger, romance, and general outrageousness. . . . Possibly the finest book I’ve ever read about the actual experience of working on the railroad.”
 — Kevin Keefe, Trains Magazine

“Beyond the tracks, Niemann paints incandescent American landscapes. Inside the trains, and inside the 'rails,' beds, and bars, Niemann paints innerscapes of anguish, exhaustion, and razor-edged humor from which no light escapes. No light except the author's brilliance.”
 — Helene Moglen, University of California, Santa Cruz

“As a bisexual, counter-cultural-type intellectual, she doesn't truly fit in any place, and she 'can't go home again'; but her marginality and her openness give her a privileged perspective from which to view the strange workings of class and sexual politics in America.”
 — Bella Brodski, Sarah Lawrence College

“Combining travelogue, Wild West adventure, sexual memoir, and closely observed ethnography, this classic account of one woman's self discovery and railroad life treks off the beaten path into the forgotten places along the rail lines.”

“Niemann has a taut, lyrically restrained but vividly descriptive style, with an observational vigilance befitting a brakeman's mindset, and her narrative clips along like a boxcar rolling through the yard. June/July 2011”
 — Bloom Magazine

“Boomer is a fascinating mix of fact, history, self-confession, self-accusation, and self-forgiveness—a diary of both emotional relationships and travel. ”
 — Pasatiempo

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Indiana edition by Leslie Marmon Silko
1. Breaking In
2. Under the Freeways
3. Boomer in a Boom Town
4. Brakettes Invade Tucson
5. Pasadena Gothic
6. The Monterey Local
7. This is the Place
8. Cadillac Ranch
9. The Pass to the North
10. Down the Line
11. Versions of Home
12. A Road to Ride
13. Northline
14. Shasta
15. End of Track

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