Joy Castro speaks about fertility choices in an era of climate anxiety

Ahmed Elsayed, Campus Life Reporter

On Thursday, Dec. 2, Whitman welcomed writer Joy Castro to campus, albeit virtually. Castro is a Willa Cather professor of English and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, novelist and memoirist.

The event was organized by Professor Katrina Roberts, who also serves as the director of the Visiting Writers Reading Series. The series is open to everyone in the Whitman community and offers attendees the opportunity to listen to well-established writers, ask questions about the writing process and seek advice and learn about the individual experiences of the writers.

The Visiting Writers Reading Series brings established and emerging writers to share their work with the community—to inspire, challenge, enlighten, etc,” Roberts said. 

During the reading, Castro read the first two chapters of her latest novel, Flight Risk, which came out last month. According to Castro, the novel is about making fertility choices during a time of climate catastrophe and what individuals can do to confront the predatory fossil-fuel industry. Castro’s works aligned with Whitman’s 2021 Academic Theme, “Climate Reckonings, Climate Justice.” Her work mainly is centered around writing fiction that entertains as much as it illuminates. 

“I try to write ‘beach reads’ for smart people,” said Castro. 

She also read two non-fiction short stories that spoke about anti-colonialism, motherhood and queerness. According to Castro, she is motivated to write about atrocities to mainly illuminate their effects upon the vulnerable, which paves the way to end them. When asked to speak about the significance of climate anxiety, anti-colonialism, queerness and diversity in her work, Castro said: 

“They’re all various forms of violence, or caused by violence, and they cause tremendous suffering. I write in protest of the greed and selfishness that motivates such cruelties.” 

Finally, Castro spoke about the process of writing itself, the challenges that she faces as a writer and the techniques and questions that arise during her helpful students. 

Castro’s talk offered a unique opportunity to all Whitman students to listen to great work and also receive advice on the writing process.

“Visiting writers reading work aloud, and sharing aspects of the challenges of writing and a writing life, afford us all opportunities to develop empathy toward and appreciation for those whose experiences and situations might differ while inviting us to consider the potential power of our own writing, our own voices, our own responsibilities,” Roberts said. 

Junior Rohan Press expressed a deep appreciation for that power. Press is a strong supporter of the Visiting Writers series and has attended its events actively.

“I found myself very much mesmerized by her language, and you can just tell by her tone, just by the way she was enunciating her voice and the way she worked through and read through her content, that she was someone who really deeply respected language. She was using it in a very attentive way, in a careful and precise way. And that means a lot to me as an English major.”

According to Press, the event is not only of value to English majors but also for the community as a whole.

“The visiting writers series are great for English majors. I don’t think they’re only for English majors or only valuable to English majors, but I think those of us who are interested in literature and analysis can get a lot out of witnessing others grapple with their own politics.” 

The Visiting Writers Reading Series continues to have an impact on the community even after a decade and is open to all community members.