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Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,542 ratings  ·  408 reviews
Full Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman, Kristen Iversen, growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated "the most contaminated site in America." It's the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and--unkn ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Crown (first published January 1st 2012)
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Moira Russell
Bought this after hearing about it, because I love the West and the nuclear power stories set in it (think Desert Bloom), and especially after reading this NYTBR review. I should have remembered Dwight Garner is FUCKING USELESS when it comes to actually recommending books. Book bloggers all suck, right? Well, Garner didn't mention the prose style of this book is painfully cliched from the start (yes, of course it is written in the first person present tense, it's apparently illegal to publish a ...more
Hmmm, so all the other reviews are singing this book's praises, but I thought it was lacking. The book features two inter-connecting stories: a rather typical coming-of-age story and the terrible history of contamination by a facility making plutonium buttons for nuclear weapons. The coming-of-age story is well written but something you've read a hundred times before (title character feels isolated, different; her father is an alcoholic and her mother suffers from regret and depression). The pie ...more
Having lived for more than 40 years in Colorado, but thankfully, not in the shadows of Rocky Flats, I was both interested in and woefully uninformed about what went on at this facility for producing plutonium "triggers." Now that I've read the book, I know that the "woefully unaware" part is not entirely my fault - great effort was made to keep me and everyone else unaware and misinformed.

Full Body Burden is both an expose of Rocky Flats and a memoir of someone growing up almost literally in its
Everyday eBook
Jan 31, 2013 Everyday eBook rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Everyday by: John Abrahams
Kristen Iversen had what many would consider an idyllic childhood, in a suburban house with avocado appliances, a horse, and parents who liked each other. Each afternoon after school, she would ride out to the edge of town. There, at the barbed wire, kicking the metal "No Trespassing" signs with the toes of her cowboy boots, she would look to the west. There: where the chinook winds came racing, swirling dust, past the eerie lights of the plant that made … something secret. In Full Body Burden, ...more
Excellent read, illustrates how self-interest (above-average pay for the workers and production quota bonuses for the managing corporation), employee fear (of being fired), management fear (of being found out), led to the regional population surrounding this nuclear facility never asking hard questions - even as the cancers (in adults and children) mounted to abnormal levels and as scientists who reported their findings of abnormally high plutonium readings were fired. Anyone who spoke out again ...more
After conducting meticulous and solid research, Kristen Iversen has compiled an outstanding, eloquent, haunting and shocking work that should be read by each and every one of us.

Iversen’s powerful narrative interweaves the story of her family life with the story of the establishment and operation of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant near Denver, Colorado. Kristen’s family home bordered the property on which the Rocky Flats facility was built. She exposes the secret of her father’s alcoholis
Becky Trombley
"God in heaven, what have we done?" was my response to the book. Not for the feint of heart.

The residents around Rocky Flats spend decades pretending that the plutonium processing plant in the vicinity really just makes cleaning solutions, "scrubbing bubbles." The truth is too terrifying. Plus, the pay at the plant is good. You can even earn fifteen extra cents an hour for working in the "hot zone". When Iverson visits a doctor as an adult and wonders if her health condition could be connected t
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2013-reads, audio
After a day of reflection I changed my 3 stars to 2. I had stopped listening to the book a few times, questioning whether I should continue - I suppose I continued only out of inertia. The entire time I listened I had been put off by Iversen's use of present tense (she used present tense for her family memoir and also in her recounting of the history of Rocky Flats). That and the repetitions gave the book a stilted, limited perspective and a monotony. (People! Present tense isn't always appropri ...more
Excellent recounting of the complexity and dangers associated with the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons manufacturing facility located just outside Denver, CO. The author grew up in a Denver suburb just two miles downwind from the site, unknowingly playing outside in plutonium-contaminated soil, air, and water. She very effectively weaves the history of the Rocky Flats site with memoirs of her own childhood and family, which was troubled by her father's alcoholism. The theme linking both narratives i ...more
Bonnie Brody
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 int
Max Carmichael
A must-read for all U.S. citizens, this book really tells it like it is. Government, science, and industry: they all do unspeakably evil things and lie about them afterward, from Washington officials and corporate executives to county commissioners and real estate developers. Rocky Flats wasn't the first and it won't be the last. And as Ms. Iversen so poignantly shows, the perpetrators go unpunished, the damage is irreversible, the victims have no recourse, and the majority of citizens don't wan ...more
(Disclaimer: 20+ year resident of Boulder, Colorado, just up the road from Rocky Flats.)

I'm conflicted about this book: I enjoyed reading it very much, but the Rocky Flats story, with which I was unfamiliar, was appalling on pretty much every level. While I can certainly understand taking national defense seriously, I cannot understand the idea that national defense, during a time of peace, can be used as an excuse for slipshod production practices and--not to put too fine a point on it--to inad
Read this book. It is so well written, and if you're looking for gripping non-fiction, it's the perfect choice. It's heartbreaking and enraging and it will have you talking the ears off anyone around you as you share what you learn in its pages.

The only reason I'm not giving it 5 stars is because I was really hoping for some infomation on current activism or steps you could take after reading. Essentially, it gets you furious and then gives you no outlet for what you can do about the things des
Fascinating story of Rocky Flats.....and the manufacture of plutonium triggers for many years in the name of national security. The story of the plant is interspersed with the author's personal story which offsets everyday life with something that is rather a horror. Interesting to see the recent article in the paper about the new housing development and residents' reaction to finding out the history of the Flats. This also marks my first completed nonfiction audiobook!
Kristen Iversen is a brave whistle blower, the Erin Brockovich of plutonium pollution. And she's a hell of a good writer, making the nonfiction account of government and corporate cover-up of Colorado’s Rocky Flats secret nuclear weapons plant activities a compelling, frightening, and personal story. She is a literary investigative reporter, weaving her family’s story with convincing scientific data that authorities ignore. She contrasts the mysterious cancer deaths of childhood friends and Rock ...more
Ok, you know how in old movies the people smoke and drink constantly? You find yourself thinking, isn't it amazing what we didn't know back then? And also, aren't we lucky that we know better now?

In this true story, Kristen Iversen tells the story both of her childhood and of the Rocky Flats Nuclear weapons plant. I found myself again and again thinking, wait, this happened during my lifetime! This period that she's talking about during which plutonium was being released into streams, ground wa
Nancy Kennedy
Kristen Iversen's story of growing up hard by a government facility that made plutonium "triggers" for nuclear bombs is a fascinating and well-written story of both deceit and naivete.

The radioactive nightmare of Rocky Flats was forced by the government onto the booming towns of Arvada, Golden, Wheat Ridge, and ultimately Denver, Colorado. The facility had hundreds of buildings, some so contaminated you could not enter without authorization. Radioactive waste seeped into the ground, spewed into
The publisher sent me this book free; otherwise, I probably never would have come across it, but I"m so glad I did! The author is a journalist and writer who just happened to also grow up in the 1970's very near Rocky Flats, which at the time was the top producer in the world of plutonium disks that activate nuclear war heads--although that's not what the government said it produced, nor did it acknowledge that shockingly large amounts of radioactive elements were regularly being dumped into the ...more
Sarah Wells
This is such an important book. The general public must make itself aware of the threats to our environmental health and personal health and well being, and maintain a healthy level of skepticism about what we are told is "safe." Iversen's work to uncover the history and consequences of the nuclear weapons plant, Rocky Flats, is tremendous. Her ability to communicate complicated science and political policy in terms that make for smooth reading is admirable. You've heard "don't believe everythin ...more
This book is absolutely stunning. Denver was very nearly wiped out by a nuclear meltdown, averted only by a serendipitous interaction of three mistakes (including someone driving a truck into a pole and inadvertently cutting off the power supply), and pretty much nobody knows about it. I certainly did not. All the plutonium triggers in the entire nuclear arsenal of the United States were manufactured just a few miles outside the Denver suburb of Arvada (which is upwind from the population center ...more
WOW! This memoir is nothing short of alarming. Having gone to school in Boulder just several miles away from the Rocky Flats sight, I recall only a smattering of news stories. And yet, Iversen details the naivety that surrounded the plutonium plant for years. When run by Dow Chemical, the locals believed Rocky Flats was simply making cleaning products. Later, Rockwell took over the plant and the belief was that "the government would let people know if there was cause for concern." What little in ...more
Jason Roth
A must read for anyone who lives, or has lived, in the vicinity of Denver and/or Boulder. Interesting details of growing up near a secret government facility in the cold war era. Chock full of piss poor government planning and subsequent negligence, corruption, ignorance, cover-ups, denials, and lies. Also, a good laymans interpretation of the devastating and long term environmental effects related to the use of plutonium and the associated nuclear bomb manufacturing process. It is downright sca ...more
More about growing up than nuclear shadows. Very similar to Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting in that it essentially a personal memoir organized around a topic area which it revisits in the text from time to time. Iversen details her Colorado upbringing in an area dominated by a nuclear bomb factory. The "Shadow" of the subtitle is well-chosen in the sense that the installation always hovers in the background of her memories of family, horses and boys ...more
Katherine Tomlinson
Kristen Iversen’s story of growing up in the shadow of the Rocky Flats, Colorado nuclear facility is interspersed with an indictment of the coverup that ensued as the radiation from the facility slowly poisoned the environment around it.

This is actually two books in one, the story of the author growing up in a severely dysfunctional family where no one mentioned daddy’s drinking and the story of the systematic and cold-blooded corporate irresponsibility of Dow Chemicals (the people who brought u
Margaret Sankey
Read for potential to be used in my new War and the Environment class, this is a memoir of growing up in the area around Denver in a town dominated by the Dow (then Rockwell)-operated plant that made plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons and which suffered several near catastrophic accidents which (barring some purely dumb luck like a firetruck knocking out the power lines) might have obliterated Denver. While I have read more focused historical studies, having this in the form of a memoir high ...more
*ARC Uncorrected Proof Won Through Goodreads*

I really enjoyed this book. While I wasn't fully sure what I was getting when I entered this drawing, I was pleasantly surprised to not only get a book I enjoyed, but also to learn a great deal about a part of this nation's history I previously knew very little about. Kristen Iverson weaves together her personal story with the story of Rocky Flats, a plutonium processing plant near Denver, CO. Iverson spent 12 years researching the plant (as well as l
I won a copy of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen as part of a firstreads giveaway. In it, Iversen tells the dual stories of growing up in a family that keeps secrets, in the vicinity of a secret government nuclear facility.

I thought when I started this book that it was going to focus on the Rocky Flats facility, and the radioactive pollution that effected the residential areas surrounding. I expected a dry recount of facts, or a personal memoi
Kathleen Hagen
Full Body Burden: Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, by Kristin Iverson, Narrated by Kirsten Potter with the prologue narrated by Kristin Iverson herself, produced by Random House Audio, downloaded from

Full Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman, Kristen Iversen, growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats,
a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated "the most contaminated site in America." It's the story of a childhoo
I live about four hours away from Denver, Colorado. I can rightfully say that I am not familiar with the Rocky Flats nuclear plant. I mean that I know of it but did not hear the warnings as other children may have heard from their parents who lived close by to the area like don't get the snow, beware strange glowing rocks (ok, so maybe not this particular warning) but you get the idea.

I got a little more out of reading this book than I thought I would. What I found the most fascinating was the
I was unable to put this book down.

Full Body Burden is both a memoir of Kristen Iversen's family life growing up in the semi-rural Colorado suburb of Bridledale and also a reconstructed history of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory. Both stories come together to weave a tale of self-destruction, silence, lies, and denial. The details of the environmental catastrophes at the Rocky Flats facility are as gripping and terrifying as a horror novel. These episodes are interrupted by the intimate
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Read It Forward: * FULL BODY BURDEN by Kristen Iversen 1 18 May 17, 2012 07:59AM  
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Kristen Iversen is the author of Full Body Burden Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and Molly Brown Unraveling the Myth, winner of the Colorado Book Award and the Barbara Sudler Award for Nonfiction. Full Body Burden was chosen by Kirkus Reviews and the American Library Association as ...more
More about Kristen Iversen...
Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth Sites of Insight: A Guide to Colorado Sacred Places

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“The body is an organ of memory, holding traces of all our experiences. The land, too, carries the burden of all its changes. To truly see and understand a landscape is to see its depth as well as its smooth surfaces, its beauty and its scars.” 2 likes
“His shirt is rumpled. His fingers, long and slender, are stained yellow at the tips from smoking. His mind is always on something else. My mind is busy, too, reading every cue and signal, keeping track of all the things that cannot be discussed, that must not be remembered, that have to be erased.” 1 likes
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