Synopses & Reviews
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 anothera 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 girl's 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.
"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
McMasters' account of growing up in a cursed town and loving it anyway is told in an engaging voice, balancing the bitter with the sweet, the funny with the infuriating, in a story of working class Long Island.
In a down-and-out service town to the glittering Hamptons, a shadow falls over a girl's magical childhood
About the Author
Kelly McMasters' essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Newsday, Elle Décor, 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.