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Jessie Ann Foley

Jessie Ann Foley

Novelist | HarperCollins | Class of 2002

The course was Nineteenth Century British Novels, taught by the great Julia Saville.

The venue: what Jessie Ann Foley (English '02) remembers as the “creaky-floored, dusty-aired English Building, a magical place where I first encountered writers like James Baldwin, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Richard Wright, Don DeLillo, Jack Kerouac and George Eliot."

If there’s one course that shaped Foley into the award-winning novelist she's become, this was it.

“I remember that at the end of the semester, Dr. Saville gave us each a sheet of paper containing a list of Victorian novels to read for pleasure, or, as she put it, ‘to keep young English majors off the streets.’ 

"I can’t promise that list kept me off the streets that year, or even out of Kam’s, but I did end up reading and loving many of her recommendations.

“And when my first novel, ‘The Carnival at Bray,’ was published, my main character receives a suggested reading list from her impossibly cool Uncle Kevin, entitled ‘reading recommendations to keep young nieces off the streets.’

“On it: books by many of the authors I first fell in love with in the English Building at U of I.”