Welcome to Shirley
A Memoir from an Atomic Town
By (author) Kelly McMasters
Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters
Book DescriptionShirley 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 the aquifer from which the residents unknowingly drew their well water. This is Kelly McMasters account of growing up in a cursed town and loving it anyway, and of a girls awakening to tragedy and to a sense of mission. Told in a deliciously engaging voice, Welcome to Shirley balances the bitter with the sweet, the funny with the infuriating, in an unforgettable story of working class Long Island.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9781586484866
(210mm x 140mm x 28mm)
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 1-May-2008
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Kelly McMasters
Welcome to Shirley, Paperback (December 2015)» View all books by Kelly McMasters
In a down-and-out service town to the glittering Hamptons, a shadow falls over a girl's magical childhood
US Kirkus Review » Powerful though flawed debut explores the author's happy childhood next to a controversial nuclear laboratory that leaked toxic waste into a Long Island aquifer.Freelance writer McMasters (Writing/Columbia Univ.) recalls growing up as a curious only child in Shirley, a service town outside the affluent Hamptons. Drinking in a bar with two childhood friends in 2005, she explains in her introduction, she was struck by what they didn't talk about: "the year the wildlife refuge near our houses became off limits, or how the neighborhood fathers used to say they glowed in the dark." Flashback to 1981, when four-year-old Kelly, her hardworking father and beautiful mother arrived at their new home in Shirley, surrounded by vacant, vandalized and boarded-up houses. The McMasters bonded with the small community and learned about how the town was built, the origins of its name and the history of nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory. As teenagers, McMasters and her girlfriends snuck through the lab's security fence to smoke and explore their former sledding hill, which was littered with condoms and beer bottles. They didn't know that the unintended consequences of 40 years of nuclear research, which comprised various studies on cancer and multiple Nobel Prizes in physics, would be radioactive water and chemicals that contaminated Shirley's soil and groundwater. In 1989, the year the author entered eighth grade, Brookhaven lab was named a Superfund site, and "cancer had become a constant in my life, moving from something that happened to a few people I knew to part of daily conversation." Years later at Vassar College, she confronted her fear of getting cancer, a family member's illness and the random deaths of some of her peers. Regrettably, McMasters follows up this moving material with pages that delve into case-study numbers and scientific quotes instead of further exploring her memories and feelings.Sincere and expertly researched, but as the story moves away from personal narrative into statistics, history and science lessons, it becomes less compelling. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Kelly McMasters
Kelly McMasters' essays and articles have appeared in "The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Newsday, Elle Decor, Metropolis," and "Time Out New York," among others. She teaches writing at Columbia University and mediabistro.com and is the co-director of the KGB Nonfiction Reading Series in the East Village. She lives in Manhattan and northeast Pennsylvania with her husband, the painter Mark Milroy.
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