Iowa’s own Patricia Foster discusses new novel “Girl From Soldier Creek” at Prairie Lights


David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

Patricia Foster, an author and professor at the University of Iowa’s Department of English, reads from her latest novel “The Girl from Soldier Creek” at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

University of Iowa’s Patricia Foster read from her newest book, Girl from Soldier Creek, at Prairie lights on Wednesday evening.

Foster, a professor emerita in the UI English Department, read from her third book, as well as from excerpts from another, nonfiction book that she is in the process of writing.

Girl from Soldier Creek revolves around the coming of age of two sisters, Jit and Amanda. The characters grow up in the rural town of Soldier Creek, Alabama, which is isolated from the culture and diversity of the outside world. In this setting, each characterexperiences a unique conflict of identifying her voice and role in the world. Foster speaks about the struggle of growing up and the challenges that accompany the loss of innocence that the book grasps.

“The emotional core of the novel is about the difference between running away and choosing to leave for these two characters,” Foster said.

She also read from her essay “Pilgrimage,” an authentic and emotional story of losing a sister. Foster wrote the essay just last week about her sister, who passed away in December.

“[It was a] wonderful, complicated relationship,” Foster said.

Kerry Howley, an assistant professor in the English Department, said in an email to The Daily Iowan that Foster has had an effect on not only on the M.F.A. program but on all writers she has worked with.

“Her influence is much broader than this program — memoirists of all stripes have long looked to Patricia’s work for her complex portrayals of women, her deep investigation of class, and her dissection of family dynamics,” Howley said. “The level of psychological insight in her work is breathtaking.”

In addition to her time at the UI, Foster has also taught in countries such as France, Australia, Italy, Czech Republic, and Spain. Foster has also been recognized for her work by being awarded with the Dean’s Scholar Award, a Florida Council Award, a Yaddo Fellowship, and an Iowa Arts & Humanities Award.

Prairie Lights events coordinator Kathleen Johnson noted Foster’s writing and what it means to Iowa City.

“She’s a really strong voice in the writing community, and by that I mean her guidance and instruction has really helped so many people develop their writing,” Johnson said.

Foster spoke about the importance of Iowa City and its influence on her as a writer.

“To me, the joy of Iowa City is that I get to walk around my neighborhood at night … and I see all these lighted windows, and I see people working,” she said. “And I think that this is a community that I really enjoy with the people working on manuscripts, on stories, on poems, on essays.”

Foster said these windows were a metaphor for writing and an inspiration to keep doing more.

“Those lighted windows always say, ‘You can keep working, you can do more, you can understand more,’ ” she said.

Her contributions to the writing community and her teaching at the UI have helped preserve the creative environment that embodies Iowa City. She spoke of the importance to share her latest work with a community that has been so supportive and influential on her work.

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