Monday, April 18, 2011

Jesse Goolsby's Blog for Our Stories

1. I teach Literature and Creative Writing at the Air Force Academy
2. Yes, we teach creative writing at the Air Force Academy
3. It shouldn't surprise you that my students write about being 18, 19, 20, and 21-years-old
4. We teach our cadets to question what they're willing to die for, and what they're willing to kill for
5. Those are two different things
6. These are the books I'm teaching in my War Literature class this semester:
    a. The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
    b. Phantom Noise by Brian Turner
    c. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with our Families by Philip Gourevitch
    d. The Assault by Harry Mulisch
    e. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway 
    f.  "Ruxbiaux Rising" from 2009 BASS and "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go" from 2010 BASS
7. What would you teach?
8. Everyday I struggle with the knowledge that my students will be culpable in the destruction of lives or property.  He or she might not be the one dropping the bomb, but at a minimum they'll work in the chain that allows that bomb to drop. I also know that our military doesn't pick our wars, but is responsible for carrying them out.  There are things worth fighting for.  We all know this.  But nothing is certain, and causes and morality and pursuits and politics make "defense of our country" tricky.  How then, do we foster moral men and women that are willing to bring to bear our instruments of power in an uncertain world? How does literature fit into this?
9. Read this:
10. I have a friend deploying to Iraq this week.  When's the last time you heard about Iraq on the news?  Been awhile huh?  How will America greet my buddy when he returns?  Will the only way you know about his tour--about his wife, five children, the fact that he's an incredibly gifted writer--is if there's an explosion and a quick write up on CNN? 
11. Here's a quiz I give my students the first day of War Literature.  See how you do:
    a. Name any living Iraqi
    b. Name three cities in Iraq.  Why do you know of them?
    c. Why did we invade Iraq?
    d. Why are we still there?
    e. Will Iraq ever become a democratic society?  Why or why not?
12. Big, tough questions.  My students will be going to Iraq. Soon. 
13. You could substitute Afghanistan for Iraq.
14. The other day one of my students asked, "Why do we only read depressing stuff?"  Before I could answer another student spoke up, "It's called War Literature. We don't unbomb people."
15.  And there's beauty in springtime Colorado.
    a. Cadets running outside.
    b. Cadets heading out for a night on the town.
    c. Cadets sitting in their rooms reading and playing video games.
    d.  And a story on my desk from a female creative writing student.  It's has nothing to do with war, and it's magnificent.  The prose is clear, but clever.  It's a story about being 21, about falling in lust, then out, about how saying "I love you" at the wrong time can end everything, right then and there. I put my pen down and read.  When I finish there's little I can do to help.  The piece is young and optimistic and detailed.  It has no hint of future IEDs, or waving goodbye to family, or dodging mortars.  It's about being 21, not 24, so for now, thank God, everyone is safe.   
Jesse Goolsby


justin nicholes said...

this is a very moving post. thanks for this insight into the minds and hearts of cadets.

Mr. Brilliant said...

I agree with Justin. Your comments are passionate and compelling. They need to be absorbed by a number of people. Among them, our leaders.

Mr. Brilliant said...

Thank you for giving those cadets an opportunity to express themselves in a creative way. You write with thoughtfulness and caring, which I appreciate.

Kseniya Melnik said...