Artemis Media Project

Book Cover Kathie Farnell’s wry, laconic memoir Duck and Cover: A Nuclear Family, available from The University of South Carolina Press, is told from her perspective as a smart-mouthed, unreasonably optimistic white girl growing up in Cloverdale, a genteel and neatly landscaped neighborhood of Montgomery, Alabama, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During those decades Montgomery's social order was slowly—very slowly—changing. The bus boycott was over if not forgotten, Normandale Shopping Center had a display of the latest fallout shelters, and integration was on the horizon, though most people still thought the water in the white and colored drinking fountains came from separate tanks.

Farnell’s household, more like the Addams family than the Cleavers of Leave it to Beaver, included socially ambitious parents (both lawyers), two younger brothers, a live-in grandmother, and Libby, the disgruntled family maid.

Her father was a one-armed rageaholic given to strange business deals such as the one that left the family unintentionally owning a bakery. Mama, the quintessential attorney, could strike a jury but was hopeless at making Jell-O. Granny, a curmudgeon who kept a chamber pot under her bed, was always at odds with Libby, who had been in a bad mood since the bus boycott began.

Farnell deftly recounts tales of aluminum Christmas trees, the Hula-Hoop craze, road trips in the family’s un-air-conditioned black Bel Air, show-and-tell involving a human skeleton, belatedly learning to swear, and even the pet chicken she didn’t know she had. Her well-crafted prose reveals quirky and compelling characters in stories that don’t ignore the dark side of the Silent Fifties.

Kathie was featured at the Southern Festival of Books in October, 2017. You can see a clip of the panel she appeared on BookTV here.

To order a copy of Duck and Cover, contact Kathie at

Tie Dyed Cover Kathie Farnell's second memoir Tie Dyed: Avoiding Aquarius, follows Kathie's attempts to survive high school and college during the late 60s and early 70s, a time which has lingered in the public imagination as a hellhole of unbridled sex, drugs, war, violence and rock 'n' roll inevitably accompanied by a soundtrack of  "All Along the Watchtower" (scenes from Viet Nam) or "Sympathy for the Devil" (rock concerts and/or riots).

During a time of frightening, ridiculous, and occasionally just plain weird change, families like Kathie's still coped, however cluelessly, with mundane concerns.

It's the late 60s and Kathie has a wardrobe problem:  her mother doesn't  think her skirts are short enough. Meanwhile, at enormous Sidney Lanier High School (football team: the Poets), the administration is ignoring the fact that somebody has planted marijuana in the library's
ficus, and the official response to integration is to announce that
students will no longer shower after PE.Kathie has PE first period. Do the math. On the home front, Kathie's brothers have started a pot plantation on the carport roof and Granny, though dead, is in no hurry to vacate the premises. What a relief to escape to small University of Montevallo, suspended in Jello since the  1950s, where there's no violence on campus and not much of anything else, either. Kathie may be missing the whole flower power vibe, but she stays pretty busy coping with hippies, Miss Poultry, and Jeb Stuart Magruder, not to mention answering all those Star Trek letters.

Tie Dyed: Avoiding Aquarius has been called "equal parts dramatic and hair-on-fire hilarious" (Alan Samry, author of Stump the Librarian: A Writer's Book of Legs) and  "fine social clever as it is witty" (Wayne Flynt, author of Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee).

Tie Dyed: Avoiding Aquarius is available from and through local bookstores.


Copyright 2008-2022, Artemis Media Project.  All rights reserved.