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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA professor Aurelie Sheehan chats about new book on Tucson during recession years

    Savanna Douglas

    Aurelie Sheehan is publishing her book ʺDemigods on Speedwayʺ through the University of Arizona Press today. Sheehan’s stories are all based in Tucson during the recession.

    Aurelie Sheehan, a professor in the English department, released a new book titled “Demigods on Speedway” with the University of Arizona Press about the city of Tucson during its recession era and draws inspiration from Greek mythology. The Daily Wildcat caught up with the professor and writer at the Helen S. Schaefer Poetry Center to talk about her new book and career in writing.

    Daily Wildcat: How did you start writing?

    Sheehan: I started as a kid. I went to a Montessori school — it was lots of art, lots of writing. My parents are both writers and so the idea of being a writer was very comfortable. It wasn’t expected but was just very natural. I was a big reader from an early age. I just kept writing, I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and I went into college writing poetry, then I switched over to writing fiction pretty quickly.

    What were some of the authors you really liked reading as a kid?

    I liked Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Tom Wolfe and then I kind of descended into William Burroughs. I guess when I was in college, I was introduced to the work of Louise Erdrich and that was really inspiring for me, as well as Flann O’Brien, an Irish writer who is really funny.

    Looking up [“Demigods on Speedway,”] there are a lot of mythological elements in it. What fascinates you about mythology?

    It’s not something I’ve ever really written or thought about writing before, but [around] 2009, when the recession was in full swing, I was thinking a lot about Tucson and how hard it was to survive for many people and how many everyday heroes there are. It seemed like the city was under siege, and Tucson is already such an economical struggling city, but it’s a place with a lot of pride and [a] fascinating, rich heritage. I wanted to explore that heroic element, like what if people, regular people, doing stuff were equated in some way with the gods.

    Since you enjoy Greek mythology, what is a figure from Greek mythology you admire or favor?

    I don’t know. When I was a kid, the one I liked best was Athena, but the one that doesn’t make an appearance in this book is Artemis, who is a central character in two stories.

    There are plenty of books nowadays that deal with mythological elements. What do you think the fascination is with mythology?

    The great thing about the Greek gods and demigods is that they’re very human. They are jealous, fight, have weaknesses and so that’s really compelling. In terms of being characters, they’re alive and they remain alive thousands of years later.

    Your book is being published with the UA Press. How was that?

    This book is about Tucson, so what better press than the UA Press? It’s been so great to work with them because they know so much about this region, and they were so eager to help me make connections throughout the community. So it’s been a good fit for this particular book. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much about place as I have with this particular collection.

    What does writing mean to you?

    Writing is both how I think things out and how I manage my emotions, in a way. I get uncomfortable as a person if I can’t write. It’s a part of who I am right now, and it’s developed that way. Even though you can’t see it, I would say it’s as significant as one of my limbs.


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