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Kristen Iversen

Award-winning author of Full Body Burden and public health speaker

First Year Experience Conference 2013
  • About Kristen Iversen

    Kristen Iversen is the author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, winner of the Colorado Book Award and the Reading the West Book Award, and chosen as one of the Best Books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews, the American Library Association, and Mother Jones Magazine, and 2012 Best Book about Justice by The Atlantic.  Selected by many universities across the country for their First Year Experience/Common Read programs, Full Body Burden was also a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence.

    Iversen is also the author of Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth, winner of the Colorado Book Award and the Barbara Sudler Award for Nonfiction, and a textbook, Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesThe NationReader’s DigestFourth Genre, and many other publications. She has appeared on C-Span and NPR’s Fresh Air and worked extensively with A&E Biography, The History Channel, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in 2014 was the recipient of the award for Distinguished Achievement in the Creative Arts from The University of Memphis. She holds a PhD from the University of Denver, and currently heads the PhD program in Literary Nonfiction at the University of Cincinnati.  She has lectured widely across the U.S. and abroad.

  • Speaking Topics

    The Myth of Absolute Safety: When Governments or Corporations Put Our Health at Risk

    People in small towns and big cities across the country are constantly and unknowingly faced with environmental hazards that can lead to serious health issues, including contamination from former nuclear weapons sites and nuclear power plants, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and coal mining. In this lecture, Iversen discusses how we can work toward stronger safety measures and greater transparency regarding the risks of these activities.

    Rocky Flats and the Secrets of the Cold War

    From 1952 to 1992, the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, located not far from Denver, produced more than 70,000 plutonium pits for nuclear bombs, the heart of every nuclear weapon in America. Local residents and workers at the plant were largely kept in the dark about radioactive contamination of the air, water, and soil, until the Department of Energy finally conceded that Rocky Flats was the most contaminated site in America. In this lecture, Iversen discusses what Americans didn’t know about bomb development and production during and after the Cold War years, while sharing her personal story of growing up near Rocky Flats, and the ten-year process of researching and writing Full Body Burden.

    The Shadow of the Nuclear West

    The idea of pristine frontiers has long been an integral part of how Americans think about the West and the American spirit. But there is a dark shadow behind this western ideal: the network of nuclear weapons sites, testing zones, and radioactive/toxic storage facilities that constitute the silent backbone of America’s relationship with nuclear bombs. This is the Nuclear West, and its history tells us as much about the American psyche as the myths of the American West that are so familiar to us.

    Telling the Truth and Telling a Good Story

    Creative nonfiction is the genre of true stories told in a dramatic fashion using techniques more commonly found in fiction, from using symbols and metaphors to rendering real people as vivid characters. In this lecture, Iversen discusses the art of nonfiction, and how to take real events and pace them so that they make for a compelling narrative. How can you tell a captivating story and still maintain the factual integrity of a work of creative nonfiction? What happens when the two come into conflict?

  • Video

  • Praise for Kristen Iversen


    Kristen did an excellent presentation at all venues, large or small. She engaged the audiences and/or classes with her Power Point pictures and her honest telling-of-the-story. She presented things logically and was very clear and articulate … She was also very personable and accessible, answering all questions well and receiving good responses from the broad range of students she encountered.

    Southeastern University

    We were pleased to welcome back Kristen Iversen to speak about the ongoing issues at the former Rocky Flats site. Since this facility is in our back yard, it is an important topic for Colorado residents to consider. Kristen brings a clear and fresh perspective on the problems facing our region as related to Rocky Flats and her delivery is non-threatening and matter-of-fact. We appreciate the time she spent researching this and would have her back to our museum anytime!

    History Colorado Center

    We invited Kristen to the Koelbel Library in Centennial, CO and our patrons were thrilled. She is a wonderful speaker and the pictures she included as part of her presentation were great. Our patrons have already requested that we bring her back again!

    Arapahoe Library District, Englewood, CO

    The students were all very complimentary of your craft lecture and reading. My creative nonfiction students, in particular, were excited about the way your craft lecture connected with your reading selection . . .You made a great model not only for the kind of work my students aspire to write but also for the kind of thoughtful visitor and generous teacher I remind them they should aspire to be as well.

    The Bluegrass Writers Studio, Eastern Kentucky University

    Praise for Full Body Burden

    Full Body Burden is one of the most important stories of the nuclear era--as personal and powerful as "Silkwood," told with the suspense and narrative drive of The Hot Zone. With unflinching honesty, Kristen Iverson has written an intimate and deeply human memoir that shows why we should all be concerned about nuclear safety, and the dangers of ignoring science in the name of national security. Rocky Flats needs to be part of the same nuclear discussion as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. So does Full Body Burden. It's an essential and unforgettable book that should be talked about in schools and book clubs, online and in the White House.

    Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Books by Kristen Iversen

  • Media About Kristen Iversen

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and Availability

  • 212 572-2013
  • Kristen Iversen travels from Memphis, TN

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