Monday, September 10, 2012

Kristen Iversen: On the Move

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 6:27 AM

"I'm booked for months. It's exciting," author Kristen Iversen reported in a recent email.

"I've been on NPR's Fresh Air and C-Span, and I've done interviews all over the country. Lots of radio. In recent weeks, I've done readings in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Boulder, Los Alamos, and San Francisco. And I just returned from Richmond, where I gave a talk to the incoming freshman class for Virginia Commonwealth University's 2012-2013 Reading Program (5,000 people had read the book!)."

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The book is Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats (Crown), which was featured in the Flyer in September 2011 (when the book was being prepared for publication) and this past June (when the book appeared).

That rundown above of Iversen's busy schedule doesn't include her most recent appearances in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. But this Thursday and Friday, September 13th and 14th, Iversen — director of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Memphis — has two events in Memphis during which she'll discuss Rocky Flats, the nuclear-weapons facility in Colorado near to where Iversen was raised. It's a facility (which has been razed) that Iversen has studied, literally, inside and out.

On Thursday the 13th, she'll be inside the IMAX theater of the Pink Palace Museum as this season's opening lecturer presented by the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities at the U of M. A reception for Iversen begins at 6 p.m., and her talk starts at 6:30, with a book signing afterward.

On Friday the 14th, Iversen will be at Burke's Book Store to read from and sign copies of Full Body Burden from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

And then Iversen's back on the road. In the next few weeks, she goes to Oxford, Mississippi, Asheville, North Carolina, Knoxville, and Denver, Ft. Collins, Aspen, and Durango, Colorado. She's especially excited to be the keynote speaker at the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability conference in Seattle on September 22nd, where she'll be joining former Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary, and she'll be lecturing at the Smithsonian on October 2nd.

Then, Iversen's once more in Memphis for a talk and signing at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library on October 6th and at the Booksellers at Laurelwood on October 16th.

Throughout her touring, Iversen's been pleased with reader reaction to Full Body Burden, which is part family memoir, part investigative reporting. But she's also met with some criticism, which has come as little surprise. In her own words: 

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"The response to the book has been overwhelming. People respond strongly to the family story, but they are stunned by the story of Rocky Flats — and the fact that they've never heard of it or know very little about it. I've received dozens of emails from people who live near or grew up near Rocky Flats ... people who have had illnesses or deaths in the family that they feel are due to Rocky Flats. I was surprised to receive some very laudatory emails from people who work for the Department of Energy and worked at Rocky Flats or other nuclear sites. 

"Some controversy, though, has stemmed from readers who take a very conservative, pro-nuclear, pro-Rocky Flats position and feel that it's wrong to question or criticize U.S. nuclear weapons policy and Rocky Flats in particular. Most of these people have not even read the book, but they manage to stir things up quite a bit. I understand the mindset. It's what I grew up with.

"Part of the narrative arc of Full Body Burden is my own story of awakening, of understanding what was happening practically in my own backyard. Also, there are a few homebuilders in Colorado who are busy building new houses next to Rocky Flats on land with measurable plutonium contamination, and they're not real happy with the fact that people are reading the book and starting to ask questions."

Questions about Iversen's two Memphis appearances this week? For her Pink Palace appearance, go to memphis.edu/moch or contact Aram Goudsouzian at agoudszn@memphis.edu or 678-2520. For her signing at Burke's, go to burkesbooks.com or call the store at 278-7484.

Follow Kristen Iversen on her blog, kristeniversen.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkristeniversen, and on Twitter, @kristeniversen. And check out her video for Full Body Burden on Amazon. It's a good introduction to the book and the issues ... and to Kristen Iversen too.

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