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Castro to present Nebraska Lecture on memoir, crime writing

Nebraska Lectures


Posted November 5, 2020 by Heidi Uhing

University of Nebraska–Lincoln professor and author Joy Castro will present the Nov. 6 Nebraska Lecture, “Writing Memoir, Writing Crime: Creativity as Sociopolitical Intervention,” inviting listeners to imagine how both forms of writing can be used to articulate political views to a general readership.

The lecture and live Q&A will be broadcast at 2:30 p.m. CST here. Viewers may submit questions for the Q&A session to unlresearch@unl.edu. The lecture is the final event of a weeklong celebration of Nebraska Research Days.

Castro is the Willa Cather Professor of English and ethnic studies and director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies. She is an award-winning author of a memoir, “The Truth Book,” and two literary thrillers set in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina: “Hell or High Water” and “Nearer Home.”

Her lecture will explore the genres of memoir and crime in terms of their literary history and potentially disruptive political impact and offer specific writing strategies for listeners interested in trying their hands at either.

“Though often disparaged for its supposedly narrow preoccupation with the self, memoir — from Augustine to Rigoberta Menchú — is actually always inherently political, for it testifies to and critiques the impact of family and governmental structures, cultural dynamics and hierarchies, and socioeconomic positioning,” Castro said.

“Crime fiction, too, has often been denigrated as mere entertainment, as ‘genre fiction,’ a lesser category than literary fiction — but it implicitly interrogates and redefines constitutive concepts of justice and violation — and the best of it, like novels by Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, Kate Atkinson and John Banville, is as literary as Shakespeare.”

Castro’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, Senses of Cinema, Brevity, Fourth Genre, North American Review, Salon, Afro-Hispanic Review, Gulf Coast and The New York Times Magazine.

She is a winner of the Nebraska Book Award and an International Latino Book Award finalist for the PEN America Literary Awards. Editor of the anthology Family Trouble, Castro was an alternate for the Berlin Prize and a writer in residence at Vanderbilt University. Her books have been adopted for courses at dozens of colleges and universities, including Brown, Grinnell, Purdue, the University of California, Davis, Rutgers and Vanderbilt.

Closer to home, Castro received Nebraska’s Annis Chaikin Sorensen Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2011 and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award in 2013. This year, she received the college’s Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award in honor of her exemplary instruction in creative writing, literature and Latinx studies. Castro received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University.

The Nebraska Lectures are offered twice a year and feature faculty discussing research, scholarly and creative activity. All talks are free and open to the public. The talks are streamed online. Regular updates, as well as archived videos from each lecture, are available through the Nebraska Lectures website.

The Nebraska Lectures: The Chancellor’s Distinguished Speaker Series is sponsored by the Research Council, Office of the Chancellor, Office of Research and Economic Development and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

For the full schedule of events celebrating research, scholarly and creative activity at Nebraska Nov. 2-6, click here.