Tucked up against the Rocky Mountains, just west of Denver, sits the remnants of one of the most notorious nuclear weapons sites in North America: Rocky Flats. With a history of environmental catastrophes, political neglect, and community-wide health crises, this site represents both one of the darkest and most controversial chapters in our nation’s history, and also a conundrum on repurposing lands once considered lost. As the crush of encroaching residential areas close in on this site and the generation of Rocky Flats workers passes on, the memory of Rocky Flats is receding from the public mind; yet the need to responsibly manage the site, and understand the consequences of forty years of plutonium production and contamination, must be a part of every decision for the land’s future.
Would that our memories were self-selecting. But often what we remember most, or most vividly, what has stayed with us as old familiars or problematic parts of our personal image repertoire, are those moments, those tableaus, that caught us unawares, that in short: we wish we hadn’t seen but have never been able to shake. These scenes, slowly enfolding us like bad dreams or flying by like trains on elevated platforms, demand we reach some kind of accommodation with them, make peace or make sense or make amends. The one thing they insist with certainty: they cannot, will not be unseen. This group of prominent American writers tries to come to grips with obsessive memory, the uncanny and bad dreams.
A shocking account of the government’s attempt to conceal the effects of the toxic waste released by a secret nuclear weapons plant in Colorado and a community’s vain search for justice—soon to be a feature documentary
Kristen Iversen grew up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated “the most contaminated site in America.” Full Body Burden is the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and–unknown to those who lived there–tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium. It’s also a book about the destructive power of secrets–both family and government. Her father’s hidden liquor bottles, the strange cancers in children in the neighborhood, the truth about what was made at Rocky Flats–best not to inquire too deeply into any of it. But as Iversen grew older, she began to ask questions and discovered some disturbing realities.
Based on extensive interviews, FBI and EPA documents, and class-action testimony, this taut, beautifully written book is both captivating and unnerving.
Winner, Colorado Book Award & Reading the West Award. A Best Book of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews & American Library Association. Best Book about Justice by The Atlantic. Finalist, Barnes & Noble Discover Award & Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence.
More than 20 universities around the country have chosen Full Body Burden for their First Year Experience/ Common Read Programs, including Virginia Commonwealth University, St. Bonaventure University, Fort Lewis College, California State University at Sacramento, Madison Community College, and Michigan Tech University.
“Beautifully fuses Iversen’s personal saga of maturation with the profoundly shocking history of the Rocky Flats site that few bothered to inform themselves about … a beautiful memoir that recognizes the inevitable intrusion of greater social forces in all our lives and the risk we take in ignoring them.”
“Intimate…Powerful…A potent examination of the dangers of secrecy…A serious and alarming book [that] has its share of charming moments.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Gripping…exquisitely researched…A superbly crafted tale of Cold War America’s dark underside.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Personal and powerful”
“One of the most important stories of the nuclear era — as personal and powerful as Silkwood, told with the suspense and narrative drive of The Hot Zone. With unflinching honesty, Kristen Iversen has written an intimate and deeply human memoir that shows why we should all be concerned about nuclear safety, and the dangers of ignoring science in the name of national security … an essential and unforgettable book.”
—REBECCA SKLOOT, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“Powerful and beautiful”
“The fight over Rocky Flats was and is a paradigmatic American battle, of corporate and government power set against the bravery and anger of normal people. This is a powerful and beautiful account, of great use to all of us who will fight the battles that lie ahead.”
—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Falter
“In this powerful work of research and personal testimony, Iversen chronicles the story of America’s willfully blinkered relationship to the nuclear weapons industry through the haunting experience of her own family in Colorado…The grief was ongoing, as Iversen renders in her masterly use of the present tense, conveying tremendous suspense and impressive control of her material.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Shocking and infuriating”
“Iversen seems to have been destined to write this shocking and infuriating story of a glorious land and a trusting citizenry poisoned by Cold War militarism and ‘hot’ contamination, secrets and lies, greed and denial….News stories come and go. It takes a book of this exceptional caliber to focus our attention and marshal our collective commitment to preventing future nuclear horrors.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“This terrifyingly brilliant book — as perfectly crafted and meticulously assembled as the nuclear bomb triggers that lie at its core — is a savage indictment of the American strategic weapons industry, both haunting in its power, and yet wonderfully, charmingly human as a memoir of growing up in the Atomic Age.”
—SIMON WINCHESTER, author of The Professor and the Madman and Atlantic.