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Welcome To Shirley
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Welcome To Shirley

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  174 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Shirley seemed to be doomed from the beginning. Founded by a Vaudevillian huckster who touted it as a seaside haven despite the sand bar that blocks access to the shore, the town has been plagued by one disaster after another—a UFO, a childhood cancer cluster, and a mysterious federal nuclear laboratory in nearby Brookhaven that leaked toxic nuclear and chemical waste into ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by PublicAffairs (first published April 21st 2008)
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3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  174 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Jan 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-health
Kelly and I went to college together and were 2 of the 12 International Studies majors in our class. We bumped into each other on Columbia's campus 5 or 6 years later when both of us were there for our master's degrees. She told me about all of the research she was doing on breast cancer rates and radiation exposure on Long Island, but I had no idea she had turned her research into a book until I joined GoodReads. Shortly after I joined I clicked on the "authors" link and her photo was there alo ...more
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Environmentalists, cancer patients and survivors, residents of Eastern Long Island
Recommended to Heather by: Brian Lehrer
Shelves: non-fiction
Having grown up in Mastic Beach, Shirley's neighboring little sister-town, I simply had to read this book after hearing Kelly McMasters interviewed on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC.

I'm not really a memoir sort of person, but I loved the way McMasters intertwined her personal story with her research on the Brookhaven National Laboratory and its impact on her community. Her imagery combined with personal and historical facts made for a complex web of personal and political writing that is extreme
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in nuclear power issues,
"Welcome to Shirley" is McMasters' memoir of her hometown, Shirley, Long Island, and the nuclear laboratory in it's midst, The Brookhaven National Laboratory. Shirley is a stain of a town that sits ignored and scoffed at in the shadow of The Hamptons. Cancer is rampant in Shirley and the immediate surrounding towns and touches just about everyone in McMaster's life. She writes about the activism that ensued to try and figure out what exactly was causing the cancer - it's scary to read of all the ...more
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was informative and interesting. I am from the town in which Ms. McMasters refers to so I found it especially fascinating to hear her facts and opinions of the area. If your familiar with eastern Long Island its worth the time to read it.
Jul 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
Wow. And not in a good way.

In March 2008, when I first learned of Kelly McMaster's forthcoming book about our hometown, I sent her an e-mail, commending her for writing about all that is good about Shirley. I should have withheld my kudos until I'd read the book. Throughout "Welcome to Shirley," Kelly presents supposition as fact, offers half truths, and omits pertinent details.

On page 101, for example, Kelly writes about the selection of "Brookhaven" as the name for the new national lab. She w
Connie (Ava Catherine)
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kelly McMasters grew up in Shirley, a Long Island working class neighborhood, located in the shadow of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Much of McMasters's book is dedicated to research about the truth surrounding the atomic lab's culpability in the chemical leakage into the water supply for the town. She discovered that not only had chemicals been allowed to contaminate the area, but atomic waste had been buried on the grounds of the lab. During the years Kelly had grown up in Shirley, almos ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The best words I can find to describe Welcome to Shirley is that reading it is like watching a box full of super 8 home movie reels and brightly colored Kodachrome slides. This is a powerful memoir telling the story of a family trying to live the American Dream in a land tainted by pollution. But it doesn't get all preachy about saving the earth or anything like that, instead it focuses more on Kelly growing up and the experiences she has with her neighbors and family, and how she both loves and ...more
Mar 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kelly McMaster’s Shirley is a small, run-down town in Long Island that once held a great deal of promise. Shirley’s the child you want to keep saving, but can’t because you find yourself suffocating in all the red tape. From a Brooklyn boy’s grand dreams of a second Hamptons replete with golf courses and flower boxes to clusters of children suffering from rare forms of cancer to a litany of women who hold vigil for their friends whose boughts with cancer are a horrific right of passage. This is ...more
Mar 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is Kelly McMasters' account of growing up in the working-class town of Shirley, on Long Island's East End. Because of Shirley's proximity to the Brookhaven National Laboratory, it appears that dangerous chemicals leached into the drinking water, causing startling rates of cancer and other illness in local residents.

McMasters devotes much of the book to exploring the town's troubled association with the Laboratory and the efforts of local activists to get answers. But Welcome to Shirley is
Ruth Soz
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this as the result of a book swap at work. It turns out that the girl who brought it in actually is from the area. I thought McMasters did a nice job of interweaving her personal experiences and the experiences of those living in Shirley with the more complicated aspects of how the nearby laboratory was affecting its residential surroundings. Some parts were a little too technical for me to fully grasp, but it was enough to get the general idea.
May 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
The book started out really strong, the story about this little girl moving from place to place and finally settling in the small town of Shirley. Then she gets in the background of the town- the cancer, nuclear power plant and it's effect, the murders of children. I had to walk away. I am in a 'summer reading' kind of mood. This was a bit too heavy. I will probably go back to this during the winter months try to finish it off... maybe.
Apr 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
You will Shirley enjoy this book.
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
Better than I thought it would be. Interesting,and definitely makes a case for health hazards of living near a nuclear reactor.
Book Culture
We are having an event at our store with the author of this book on June 25th.
Ashleigh Marshall
This book was about a young girl sharing her journey of growing up and watching the people she loves die. The book discusses politics, science, and life lessons. The book gives us some history about activation for breast cancer. While this girl, Kelly Mcmasters, is growing up she moves to a town called Shirley in Long Island; it is right near a nuclear power plant, that many of the neighborhood parents work at. Around the time she was in middle school one of her friends dad dies, and from there ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading parts of this book, but other parts were too technical for me. I think the problem lies in the way the book is the book is organized, namely chronological. All it three parts run together: the personal narrative, the town's narrative and the scientific information. It would have worked better if this was divided into separate chapters. That said this is a n important and necessary book about how the government weasels itself out of community concern and is blind to the incredib ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
The book has three main parts. There is the history of Shirley, the authors life and a discussion of Brook haven National Laboratory (BNL). These parts are unfortunately all mixed together with one chapter covering the history of the town and one about the authors life.

The history of Shirley section is ok not much detail. It's more a discussion or oral history rather then a detailed history with citations and maps. These sections were not written with any research material being cited. The inabi
Matt Miltenberg
Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Got this book because my Mom recently moved to Shirley. I usually enjoy memoirs but they are usually having to do with sports, politics, or other famous people - Kelly McMasters was none of these so I really wasn't expecting much and wasn't sure I'd even read this book. I ended up being extremely glad I did. The book was well written and gave an interesting personal story as well as an in depth, page turning history of the breast cancer mysteries/Brookhaven lab atomic pollution battle on Long Is ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was an interesting example of creative non-fiction. She touches on a lot of common suburban experiences, and as a result, the work is very relatable.

I also relate to this book because I grew up around 10 miles from the infamous Three Mile Island. I lived in its shadow in graduate school, where we were told that iodine tablets were available in case of another accident. In high school, for reasons still unknown, my school district experienced six student deaths within six mon
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because its author, a Hofstra professor, will be coming to our next alumni Book Club meeting; it is not something I would have ordinarily chosen. Had I never picked it up, I would have missed a very important and compelling read.

My experience with it was quite interesting. As I was reading, I kept thinking that the author couldn't make up her mind whether she wanted to write a very broad memoir or to focus on the impact the experiments going on at Brookhaven Labs had on the tow
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
In the early 1980s, my great-grandmother, a first-gen puerto rican who had lived in the shit parts of the Bronx all her life bought a tiny house in Shirley, NY at 10 Lafayette Drive. I remember it well. I fell through the cover to the septic tank and went up to my knee in pure cess. When my mom fished me out and ran me to the bathroom, and my great-grandmother was outside yelling, "I saved the shoe! I saved the shoe!"

I saw a reviewlet for this in Oprah and knew I had to pick it up. When I told m
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Being that I lived very close (walking distance) to BNL, I found this book very relevant and well written.
McMasters explains a lot about the lab, what is done behind the thick walls and forest. I have family members who have worked there for over 20 years. Hearing her stories from her neighbors and family is very enlightening. McMasters does cut into BNL and their practices a lot. However being from the area- I believe it is more than justified or fair. Although the book is full of numbers, and
Aug 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolutely wonderful book. The author perfectly combines her sweet and sentimental nostalgia for her childhood (which was idyllic in a uniquely American way) with the story of the poisoning occurring every minute in her town, to her friends and neighbors and to her and her family.

Shirley is a town abutting the Brookhaven National Laboratory and for decades toxic wastes were allowed to drain into the groundwater.

This isn't a medical book so she doesn't "prove" that the horrible cancers
May 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
I felt this was neither fish nor fowl. It was divided between a memoir of childhood and a piece of investigative journalism. The memoir was somewhat better than the investigative journalism. As someone who grew up in an atomic community, I was looking for similarities between my community and Shirley. Shirley's residents suffer high rates of cancer, but from what I could conclude from what I read in this, it seems to be as much from the local government allowing dense development in an area lack ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Having lived on Long Island I was drawn to this book when I found it in Kelly's bookstore in Honesdale, PA. I did not really know anything about Shirley, but I could easily relate to many of the experiences she had growing up.

However, I was struck by the amount of loss and sadness that was experienced within this small community. I admired the tenacity of the residents and felt admiration for the way they worked towards improving their lives and trying to help others. This was not a group to sit
Told in the form of a personal narrative, this book contains a lot of interesting information about Long Island local history, especially the East End. There's also a lot of interesting information about nuclear pollution, which might make anyone question the water they drink. Unfortunately, much of this book also reads as an indictment of Brookhaven National Laboratory, which may or may not be justified. To be fair, McMasters credits BNL for having improved their practices in recent years, but ...more
Sally Grotta
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A lovingly written memoir about growing up in Shirley, Long Island, in the shadow of the Brookhaven Lab. It pulled me in with great storytelling, and held me with haunting facts and faces of the people who have been harmed by the nuclear waste and environmental impact of the lab.

Incidentally, Daniel Grotta and I interviewed the author Kelly McMasters for our Arts & Letters show. ( She had some very interesting insights into the process and responsibil
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: atomic
I enjoyed this book as a memoir of a young woman's youth spend in Shirley, NY. I did not take this to be a scientific thesis on contamination from the nearby laboratory, or a history of the town of Shirley itself. Just as two people can have different memories of the same event, so can different people have different experiences growing up in Shirley. I don't see the point in bashing the author over this book. I enjoyed the book as I have enjoyed other books of personal memoirs. I didn't take ev ...more
Jan 23, 2009 rated it liked it
This was kind of a memoir/persuasive piece on the negligence of Brookhaven National Lab. I grew up and again live in an "atomic" town, so I was interested to read about someone else's experience. I am very much in favor of nuclear energy, and my concern with this book is that it somewhat vilifies nuclear. However, I feel that it really should be taken more as a story of government negligence and failing than of anti-nuclear persuasion.
May 22, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is kind of a memoir, but I felt the author switched back and forth between wanting to tell a fairly well written story about her life growing up in a town affected by radioactive waste and a missive about what was wrong with the federal government's national lab facility on Long Island. I wish she had interwoven the two better. It was an easy read and I was engaged throughout the book, but I felt the dots didn't quite connect.
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Kelly McMasters grew up in Shirley. Her essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Newsday, Metropolis, and Time Out NY, among others. She teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism and the undergrad creative writing program of Columbia University, and for She is the co-director of the KGB Nonfiction Reading Series in the East ...more