Hall Chat: Boully & Casteel Reading

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I recently attended an on-campus reading that featured Nonfiction MFA faculty members, Jenny Boully  and Joshua Casteel. The reading was hosted by Columbia College Chicago’s English Department, and a large crowd turned out on a Monday night—the perfect night for a reading and a wonderful way to start the week.

The Nonfiction MFA program is in it’s second year and it was exciting to see such a large crowd at one of our events. The Nonfiction Undergraduate Program has been around much longer, so they have always been able to draw large crowds, but I do believe that the Nonfiction MFA program events have hit their stride.

The event marked the first time that Jenny Boully has actually had the chance to read from a bound and published copy of her manuscript. She joked that after having a baby, she wasn’t able to take as many reading opportunities as she used to and that it was a treat to read from the actual book at Columbia. As a current student of Jenny’s and someone who studied her work in underground, it was a special treat for me, as well, to hear her read from her new collection.

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The event was also a reception to welcome Joshua Casteel to the faculty and to the program. Joshua Casteel has an impressive bio: a US Army interrogator and Arabic linguist at Abu Ghraib Prison from June 2004 to January 2005, honorably discharged as a a Conscientious Objector, formerly on the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and he holds an MFA in Playwriting and Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa. He is the author of Letters From Abu Ghraib, The City of God, and a play Returns which has been performed widely in the US and abroad.  This semester he is teaching one of the Graduate Workshops in Nonfiction and everyone is very excited to have a new faculty member and addition to the Nonfiction community.

Joshua Casteel was recently diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, and we are so happy that he was able to join us here at Columbia. The event was an opportunity for the Columbia Nonfiction community to show our support and offered a chance to make a donation to help support Joshua with the cost of his care. If you would like to know more about Joshua, his recent diagnosis, and how he is doing now and/or if you would like to make a donation, please visit his site.

The reading was lovely, and it was wonderful to hear both Jenny and Joshua’s work. I encourage you, if you’re reading this blog, to click over to Joshua’s website, read his story, and keep him in your thoughts.