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Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Shadow of a Secret Nuclear Facility Paperback – 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846556147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846556142
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,472,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kristen Iversen is the author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, winner of the Colorado Book Award and the Reading the West Book Award, and chosen one of the Best Books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews, the American Library Association, and Mother Jones Magazine, and 2012 Best Book about Justice by The Atlantic. Selected by more than a dozen universities across the country for their First Year Experience/Common Read programs, Full Body Burden was also a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence.

Iversen is also the author of Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth, winner of the Colorado Book Award and the Barbara Sudler Award for Nonfiction, and a textbook, Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Reader's Digest, Fourth Genre, and many other publications. She has appeared on C-Span and NPR's Fresh Air and worked extensively with A&E Biography, The History Channel, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in 2014 was the recipient of the award for Distinguished Achievement in the Creative Arts from The University of Memphis. She holds a PhD from the University of Denver, and currently heads the PhD program in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Cincinnati.

Kristen Iversen has two sons and currently lives in Cincinnati.

Customer Reviews

Reading Full Body Burden is one way to break the silence.
The history of Rocky Flats was very well told and the stories of her childhood are beautiful, haunting, and horrific all at the same time.
Audiobook Bandit
I received this book last week, and once I started it, I finished it in 2 days.
robert g massie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By saltwise on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Full Body Burden could have been named conspiracy of silence it that had not already been used.

Kristen Iversen follows silence throughout this very important book: the silence within a fractured family; the silence of the wind-swept high plains reaching toward the Colorado rocky mountains; and the worst silence of all, that knowing silence putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk as our own government lied to further its own ends.

As a historian this book shames me. Nearly forty years after the Mississippi summer it dawned on me I could have joined in that effort. I was 18. I knew about it. It didn't make the connection. Not so many years after that, living about 20 miles south of Rocky Flats, I knew but didn't make the effort to understand what was happening. And this book shames me.

For the most part the local news media was silent, as were our elected leaders. Only too few "kooks" recognized some of the dangers. However, they thought it building nuclear weapons was immoral and wrong. Not until the FBI raid and the heroic and still silenced grand jury, did we all learn of the real danger--the vast careless contamination of the air, water and soil affecting so very many.

Silence is the true enemy of this country.

Reading Full Body Burden is one way to break the silence. It is a very strong addition to the history of the cold war and the nuclear industry in this country.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Author Kristen Iversen's 12 years of research is evident in this fairly epic look at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapon's factory, and the contamination, cancer and dishonesty the facility left behind. But, this is the price for a nation's protective nuclear arsenal - the weapons have to be built somewhere, and Rocky Flats was the source for the nuclear warhead's plutonium 'triggers.'

The 'villain' of the piece is of course the government and the private companies - Dow Chemical, for example - that willfully kept secrets from the close-by Denver population, pretending the facility was much safer than it was, and that the health effects were minimal. A grand jury's recommended criminal indictment was ignored, and at the book's conclusion, an appeals court overturns a mammoth legal judgement in resident's favor.

None of this is really a surprise. But it's depressing to see how local communities are ignored - or worse, how decent jobs are considered more important than long-term health. Thousands of perfectly content workers are at the plant; had they up and quit one day in protest, maybe they could have changed things. But that never happens; in fact, Iversen shows several cases where whistle-blowers were threatened by their fellow workers, scared the plant would close and take away their jobs. So it's easy to blame the companies and the government, but we're the ones who sit idly by.

This part of the story should anger and disgust readers, but we should not be surprised that a nuclear program designed to try and protect the entire country would have been unwilling to sacrifice the health of a few towns.

The book's parallel thread is Iversen's childhood in the community, and dealing with an alcoholic father.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Be prepared to be terrified, amazed and astounded as you read this book about the Nuclear horror of Rocky Flats near Denver, Colorado. Like Los Alamos, it is a research facility, builder of plutonium triggers and this site was initiated to fight our part of the cold war. Right in the back yard of this nuclear test site and plutonium harvester, were homes where children played in the smudge of plutonium, rode horses across contaminated land, and drank water from poisoned wells.

Kristen Iversen intersperses the history of Rocky Flats with the story of her Nordic Family - a family that keeps secrets and does not speak out of turn - and do they ever have a lot of secrets to keep. Kristen's father is an attorney who is heading down the deep slope of alcoholism, her mother refuses to acknowledge what is happening at Rocky Flats. She talks about cleaning agents being manufactured there.

Despite the workers coming down with epidemiological markers for cancer, the government just won't take the people seriously. There are more agencies of the government than I could have ever imagined and each one is there to protect another agency. They work in tandem to keep the public relations good and the people fooled.

Kristen has spent years writing this book, interviewing people, going over court cases and following the problems from the very start. She opens with the Manhattan Project which began in 1942 and closes with the classic poem, 'Plutonium Ode' by Alan Ginserg. I grew up listening to Ginsberg and he was a brave poet who knew when to speak up and how to do it. He feared nothing and told the truth. Even in the days when homosexuality was in the closet, Ginsberg was out of the closet.

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Coloradoan on June 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
*Full Body Burden* is an intense, fast read. It alternately fascinated and horrified me. Iverson does an excellent job of writing the fifty-year history of Rocky Flats in a very readable and intriguing way. This book is the story of the Rocky Flats Plant, Plutonium, fires, and the Colorado Front Range. The book is also the story of growing up in Colorado in the 50s and 60s, a beautiful story of horses, land, and childhood, but also a painful story of alcoholism in a family.

The book makes it clear why nuclear sites are a national problem, not just a Colorado problem, as Iverson discusses the shipping and storing of nuclear waste and the other states that have similar contamination issues (Idaho, Washington, South Carolina, Ohio, New Mexico, and Tennessee all come into play).

I live near Standley Lake but my dogs and I will no longer go near the lake. We have to continue paying attention to Rocky Flats, Hanford, Oak Ridge, etc. I can't recommend this book strongly enough.
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