LSU Professor Takes Readers to New Mexico in New Book of Essays4/13/2018
BATON ROUGE - LSU assistant professor Josh Wheeler recently authored his first book, “Acid West.” It is a collection of essays from his life while growing up in New Mexico.
“When I left New Mexico to go to college in Los Angeles, I was always introduced as ‘the kid from Alamogordo, New Mexico’... like I was from some strange, distant planet. At first, I think I was embarrassed that I wasn't from some place fancy, like Beverly Hills. But then I grew to appreciate other people's interest in this place that they didn't know much about” said Wheeler. “So, on some basic level, the book is an attempt to explain where I'm from, where my family has been for many generations.”
Wheeler said “Acid West” readers may find themselves reflecting on their own stories and experiences.
“I also hope readers will get a sense that every place in America, no matter how small or overlooked, plays an integral role in the nation's identity. I just happen to be from Southern New Mexico and so that's what my book is about. But the best outcome might be that someone from a seemingly small town like Leiper's Fork, Tenn., or Bayou Goula, La., or Libby, Mont., reads “Acid West” and decides to write their own book about their home region, studying it closely to reveal how it is an important part of the American puzzle,” said Wheeler.
The essays in “Acid West” focus on New Mexico’s place in that “American puzzle.”
“Each essay in the book is also about some event in Southern New Mexico history that really exemplifies a shift in America's identity: the training of drone warriors, the first atomic bomb, dreams of commercial space travel, paranoia about alien visitations. All this stuff that has shaped, and will continue to shape, who we are as Americans, it happened in this region that many folks overlook,” he said.
At LSU, Wheeler said he typically teaches workshops focused on both creative non-fiction and fiction.
“If you take a creative-nonfiction class with me, you're going to learn a lot about the history of the essay genre, which is way more exciting than it sounds. Then you're going to write your own essays, not the academic essays you're used to writing in college, but essays that allow you to explore your own story, your own interests, and your own imagination,” he said.
Wheeler is a graduate of the University of Southern California, New Mexico State University and has an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary journals including The Iowa Review, Sonora Review, [Pank] and The Missouri Review. He’s written feature stories for BuzzFeed News and Harper’s online.
Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Media Relations
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