Welcome to Shirley

Welcome to Shirley : A Memoir from an Atomic Town

3.71 (169 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 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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Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 144.78 x 210.82 x 25.4mm | 476.27g
  • PublicAffairs,U.S.
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Illustrations map
  • 1586484869
  • 9781586484866
  • 2,564,979

Review quote

""""Welcome to Shirley" is written with passion and humility and McMasters clear and vivid style keeps readers on edge."--"Dan's Papers," April 11, 2008 "Deeply personal and disturbing, "Welcome to Shirley" is both elegy to a beloved home and an indictment of environmental abuse."--"Dame Magazine".,."the interweaving of autobiography and fact works beautifully"--"Washington Post Book World," June 2, 2008 ""Welcome to Shirley" is written with passion and humility and McMasters clear and vivid style keeps readers on edge."--"Dan's Papers," April 11, 2008"It is a tragic, at times horrific tale--yet McMasters manages, with great grace and introspection, to deliver an eminently readable book of hope and strength."--"The Long Island Press" "Powerful...debut explores the author's happy childhood next to a controversial nuclear laboratory that leaked toxic waste into a Long Island aquifer. McMasters follows up this moving material with pages that delve into case-study numbers and scientific quotes ... Sincere and expertly researched."--"Kirkus Reviews" "All places are mute till someone speaks for them--this book bears marvelous, scalding witness to the kind of horror that's been repeated in so many spots that we've almost gone numb. But no one will be numb after reading this account."--Bill McKibben

""Welcome to Shirley" is an uplifting and disturbing tour of deep nostalgia for home and an entrenched institution that earns its designation as a Superfund site. McMasters slips along the fine edge between the personal and the journalistic; between profound nostalgia--she loves this place, and longs for it--and an adult reckoning with the realities of her gritty town. McMasters' voice is devastating in its clarity and urgency and great tenderness."--Meredith Hall, author, "Without a Map" "With echoes of such great writers as Thornton Wilder and Edgar Lee Masters and Upton Sinclair, McMasters has written an eloquent love song to her home-town, and a scalding indictment of the powerful facility that brought fear and death to her neighbors. This is a great book about small town America. It should be required reading for us all."--Abigail Thomas, author of "Safekeeping" and "A Three Dog Life" "Kelly McMasters delivers this all-American atomic town to us with a rare precision and beautiful nostalgia in the true Greek sense, a sickness for home. McMasters' is an American life as ordinary--and wholly remarkable--as our damaged industrial centuries: Norman Rockwell with his brush dipped in isotopes."--Suzanne Antonetta, author of "Body Toxic" "The heartbreak of this story is in the small details, which leave a lingering sense of lives that might be forgotten if they were not recalled here. Both personal and political, and steadily compelling, "Welcome to Shirley" is a thoughtful, delicate elegy to an ideal."--Lydia Millet, author of "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart" "This intimate portrait of hardscrabble Shirley, Long Island and the ways in which activities at nearby Brookhaven Lab affected its citizens shows through individual lives--and deaths--how environmental injustice works. Native Kelly McMasters combines a warm personal perspective with vigorous reportorial objectivity to tell this gripping story of the underside of the Promised Land."--Suzannah Lessard, author of "Mapping the World" "McMasters marshals the facts and articulates feelings with eloquence and drama, telling stories of personal suffering to expose crimes against the public, and nature itself."--"Booklist," February 15, 2008 "McMasters tells the story...with passion and clarity. She also pulls off a small miracle in the telling, making rundown, unbeautiful Shirley a place of dignity, a place of heroic people and stubborn fighters, a place you'd be proud to call home."--"O, The Oprah Magazine," May 2008
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About 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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Rating details

169 ratings
3.71 out of 5 stars
5 24% (41)
4 39% (66)
3 25% (42)
2 8% (13)
1 4% (7)
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