Kelly McMasters grew up loving her blue-collar hometown of Shirley, Long Island. A service-town to the glittering Hamptons, the place, though hardscrabble, was full of strong, hard-working families and an abundance of natural beauty. Comforted by the rhythms of small-town life, Kelly and her neighbors were lulled into a sense of safety. But, while they were going to work and school, setting off fireworks at Fourth of July barbeques, or jumping through sprinklers in summertime, a deadly combination of working class shame and the environmental catastrophe of a nearby leaking nuclear laboratory began to boil over.
Welcome to Shirley has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, The Onion's AV Club, Newsday, and on The Brian Lehrer Show and Democracy Now!. The memoir was named an Orion Book Award finalist and is the inspiration for the documentary film The Atomic States of America, a 2012 Sundance Film Festival Selection.
"The interweaving of autobiography and fact works beautifully."
-JULIET WITTMAN, Washington Post Book World
"Journalist McMasters writes with precision, affection, and venom about the history of her hometown...Joining the growing circle of environmental health memoirists, 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."
-DONNA SEAMAN, Booklist
"McMasters somehow waxes rhapsodic in this bittersweet chronicle of small-town life and scientific irresponsibility, whose sentimentality sets it apart from similar accounts....her exhaustive sifting through medical and scientific evidence for what happened to Shirley is admirable, as is the fortitude with which she returns to her hometown for a critical look."
-ELLEN WERNECKE, AV Club at The Onion
"In Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town (PublicAffairs), Kelly McMasters ... 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."
-ELAINA RICHARDSON, O, The Oprah Magazine (see full review here)