The Book

Cover of Full Body Burden

The 2013-2014 One Book

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

by Kristen Iversen

This memoir describes the trials of growing up in the mid-twentieth century under the shadow of two big secrets.

The first was private and in the home: her father was an alcoholic whose condition worsens and became increasingly more difficult to ignore. The image of the idyllic suburban childhood, complete with trips to the lake and ponies, is riddled with deception and secrets. 

The second was equally private yet just beyond her backyard: the secret Cold War nuclear weapons plant, Rocky Flats, once called “the most contaminated site in America.”  The title, full body burden, draws from dangers of living close to the facility that manufactured the plutonium warhead triggers; it is the amount of radioactivity that the human body is ostensibly able to tolerate safely during a lifetime. Much like her father’s alcoholism, Rocky Flats presented risks so grave that they were were easier to ignore and cover up in the short term.

Throughout the book, Iversen interweaves the two stories. The narrative alternates between describing a dysfunctional family living among the comforts and security of a middle-class suburban household and shedding light on the U.S. government’s attempts to conceal the deadly effects of radioactive waste released by Rocky Flats. She describes in haunting detail the devastating consequences of both in her compelling book.

Awards

Full Body Burden is the winner of the winner of the 2013 Reading the West Book Award in Nonfiction and the 2013 Colorado Book Award. It has also been chosen as one of the Best Books by the American Library Association and Kirkus Reviews. In 2012, The Atlantic bestowed the Best Book about Justice. It is also a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discovery Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. 

Reviews 

“Ms. Iversen has delivered an intimate history of the environmental abuses at Rocky Flats, which opened in 1952, and the history of how those abuses have been systematically covered up.”


“Iversen's new book, Full Body Burden: Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, is in part a memoir about her troubled family, and also an investigation into the decades-long environmental scandal involving nuclear contamination in and around Rocky Flats.”


“Iversen weaves the story of her family’s disintegration into a thoroughgoing investigation of the events at Rocky Flats, taking as her source material everything from FBI and DOE reports to interviews with plant workers and health professionals.”

The Telegraph, U.K.


“What makes this book so powerful is not only this persistent revealing of the truth, but also Iversen’s ability to shift gears from the journalistic and factual to the aesthetic and metaphorical so that Full Body Burden hits the reader in more than one place.”

Brevity Literary Magazine

Author Day Events

Come see and meet the author of Full Body Burden on Author Day! Author Day is spread over two days this year, Tuesday and Wednesday, November 12 and 13, 2013.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013
An Evening with the Author: Kristen Iversen

"Fukushima, Rocky Flats, and The Myth of Absolute Safety: When Governments or Corporations Put Our Health at Risk"

The accident at Fukushima reminded the world in a terrible way that we cannot ignore the threat of radioactive contamination, whether it comes from nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons sites. People in small towns and big cities across the country are often unknowingly faced with environmental hazards that can lead to serious health issues, including contamination from former nuclear weapons sites and nuclear power plants.

Kristen Iversen will read from and discuss her award-winning book, Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, a book of memoir and investigative journalism that describes her experience of growing up next to—and eventually working at—one of the most contaminated nuclear sites in the country.  She will also discuss the history of the plant itself, including a dramatic FBI raid, a controversial grand jury, and ongoing litigation and controversy.  What are the environmental, cultural, and historical legacies of U.S. nuclear policy?  What do citizens need to know?

Reading and lecture followed by Q & A. Book signing to follow. Books will be for sale at the event, sold by the Hornet Bookstore.

All ages permitted. No alcohol sold or permitted at venue. Sign language interpreter provided.

Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Time: 7 pm
Location: Ballroom, University Union

For more information, please contact UNIQUE at (916) 278-6997. To find out more about UNIQUE, please click here.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Q&A and Discussion for Learning Communities


Students from the Sac State Learning Communities are invited a special presentation where Kristen Iversen will be joined by faculty and staff. Kristen Iversen will discuss her ten-year journey of writing, and her experiences of growing up next to a secret nuclear facility and later working at the bomb plant herself.  What is the cost of secrecy at the level of family, community, and country?  What is the long-term environmental, historical, and cultural cost of U.S. nuclear policy?  What happened at Rocky Flats, during the Cold War and up to the present moment, is crucially important not only to Colorado but to the entire country, and to each one of us.

Each panelist will present short commentaries and then engage with the audience in a Q&A. Book signing to follow immediately.  

Date:Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Time: 10 am
Location: Ballroom, University Union

For more information, please contact UNIQUE at (916) 278-6997. To find out more about UNIQUE, please click here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Mid-Day Reading and Campus Lecture by Kristen Iversen

"Rocky Flats and the Secrets of the Cold War"

President Alexander Gonzalez will introduce Dr. Kristen Iversen will discuss her highly-acclaimed book, Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, a work of memoir and investigative journalism about one of the most notorious nuclear weapons sites in the country.  Full Body Burden is Iversen’s story of growing up in Arvada, Colorado near the Rocky Flats nuclear weaponry facility, which produced more than 70,000 plutonium pits for nuclear bombs between 1952 and 1992.  Local residents and plant workers were largely kept in the dark about radioactive contamination of the air, water and soil. Eventually the Department of Energy conceded that Rocky Flats was the most contaminated site in America.

Iversen will discuss what Americans didn’t know about bomb development and production during and after the Cold War years and the ongoing environmental, historical, and cultural legacy of Rocky Flats and the U.S. nuclear weapons program.  She will also discuss her ten-year process of researching and writing Full Body Burden.  

A presentation of photographs will be followed by discussion and Q & A. Book signing to follow immediately. Books will be for sale at the event, sold by the Hornet Bookstore.

Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Time: Noon
Location: Ballroom, University Union

For more information, please contact UNIQUE at (916) 278-6997. To find out more about UNIQUE, please click here.

Kristen Iversen's campus visit is made possible by a generous donation from the Sacramento State University Department of Physics Chien Hu Institute.

Accessibility


Full Body Burden
is also available in accessible formats from the office of Services to Students with Disabilities High Tech Center (SSWD) through Bookshare.org (free membership for all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities). Please contact SSWD at sswd@csus.edu or (916) 278-6955 or (916) 278-7239 (TTY) for assistance.

The One Book is also available through the University Library. You may also purchase the book at the Hornet Bookstore and through major booksellers.