Josh Roiland is a writer and assistant professor of journalism in the Department of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has a Ph.D.in American Studies from St. Louis University. He researches and teaches courses on the history and practice of literary journalism, the historical relationship between journalism and American politics, and the nonfiction of David Foster Wallace. He has taught at the University of Maine, University of Notre Dame, and Case Western Reserve University. He recently completed a manuscript of creative nonfiction called The Speaking Length, and is at work on another book project: The Rest is Silence: The Unexplored Nonfiction of David Foster Wallace. Roiland publishes both scholarship and popular pieces in venues like the Washington Post, Longreads, Popula, Literary Journalism Studies, Nieman Storyboard, and A24 Films (in conjunction with the release of the David Foster Wallace biopic The End of the Tour).
20 thoughts on “About”
Hi Josh – I came across your review of “The Last Love Song” in the Washington Post. It was lovely! I’ve never read Didion, but I plan to now. Thanks so much for an enjoyable read!
Hi Josh –
I just read A Shot in the Arm” after my fiance sent me a link to it. I can totally relate to what you’ve experienced. While I didn’t end up going the PhD route, I have two MA’s and the student loans and credit card debt that go along with them. In the mid-1990s, I opted not to continue on and earn a PhD in English (my first MA) because I was seeing how few positions – and how many applicants – were out there. I opted to get a MILS because I thought there were more job opportunities. There are – but you certainly aren’t in danger of getting rich. I thought going to the #1 school for my program would allow me to name my job (it didn’t).
Growing up in rural PA and living in MI for my final degree program didn’t prepare me for the extraordinary cost of living in New England – first MA, then NH. Had I not been married to someone who earned twice what I did (despite not having even finished his BA), I don’t know how I would have survived financially. In fact I came very close to filing bankruptcy following my divorce several years ago.
While we might have it difficult, I worry about today’s students who are heading off to college. Tuitions have increased so much since I was in grad school that I don’t know how these kids are ever going to be able to get out from underneath their student loan debt.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I at least wanted you to know that I can empathize with your situation. If you haven’t already done -or considered doing so – I would encourage you to pursue this topic in your writing. I haven’t seen a whole lot out there in the way of books written about this problem. There are a few out there, but you could write one from the perspective of someone living the problem – not merely studying it.
Wishing you all good things –
I just read “A Shot in the Arm.” Thank you for your candor; I can relate to much of your story. I thoroughly enjoyed my education in the Humanities but had difficulty finding work in that field. Eventually I chose a different path for graduate school. One source of extra cash for me is tutoring on-line, specifically students in China. It’s more fun than plasma donation, I imagine. Best of luck to you.
As a bankruptcy lawyer, I am pleased that you found your way to Chapter 13 as a way to ameliorate your debt situation. I am struck, however, by what seems to me an appallingly bad cost/benefit analysis for your plasma donation trips. Being generous, I will overlook — unrealistically — a slew of costs: the gas (apparently you never planned to pay for it); fixed automobile costs like insurance and interest; and the unpleasantness/wear-and-tear on your body. Even treating those as “free,” there is no way around 214 miles of wear and tear on your vehicle, and at least four hours of your time. For $50. You would have been better off with any minimum wage job for those hours. If this article boosts your resume and leads to future income, maybe it changes. If that was your thinking, however, it undercuts the premise of that article.
I appreciated the honesty of this article. It was engaging and presented a glimpse into a slice of the world of academia many of us do not see. I was taught to get as much education as I could with no regard to cost. My millennial children were cautious and only enrolled in fully funded programs. I hear (from them) that one’s career in academia is tainted if one enters programs that do not offer stipends etc.
The piece’s message reminded me of an article that appeared in Harper’s in 1998: “Reflections on the Art of Going Broke.” They both present scenarios and the struggles of people who ostensibly “have it all.” It is good for us to be mindful of the cost and investment made by some of our brightest people.
Josh–Your Longreads piece deserves to be read by every university president, athletic director, etc. Brilliant, heart-breakingly honest and w/o a trace of self-pity. I’m a former newspaper reporter who took a buyout when I concluded the $9-million-a-year CEO had no incentive to cease the relentless cutting, layoffs. Was offered adjunct job and did the basic math. No thank you. What made my decisions possible? My husband is a well-paid lawyer.
Must agree with ken, above. I think Josh does a disservice to the academy to describe this as somehow symptomatic of academia. This story is more a case of an individual following bad advice from a undergraduate mentor and a number of very poorly thought out financial decisions.
Would we be as sympathetic if Josh took out 200k to go to a midlevel law school, specialized in a not very lucrative area of law, and then wrote about his difficulties coping on a $100,000 salary in a major metropolitan area.
$52,000 is a very good salary in Bangor. The problem here is his decision to take on almost $50,000 in credit card debt and finance most of a PhD program with student loans–something nearly everyone tells you NOT to do.
Josh, dude you chose poorly. You may have a Phd but you are an idiot in the sense that you bought the tripe of never ending education for the sake of education by professors who are paid to keep the circus going. Amateur race car drivers call it the “Red Mist” and it involves the suspension of disbelief that yeah I can make it around the track one more time on just three wheels. There’s a book titled “Fast Guys, Rich Guys and Idiots.” You should read it. It will help you the next time a phase of education strikes.
I know my opinion in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant however I do want to propose to all critics of Josh’s new piece that criticism is never about the person you criticise. The fact that Josh gets 98% positive feedback in and of itself means he has accomplished something. If he has enlightened or helped even one person out there that means he is doing something right. That means he is worth something. Maybe even worth more than someone writing nasty comments for the simple reason of feeling inadequate themselves or reveling in other’s misfortune. Personally, I liked the piece. The story is honest and relatable. It is thought-provoking and elegant. Shot in the arm… The metaphor is simple yet effective, (DFW anyone?). I hope there is more to come.
Life is a crap shoot.
Josh, i just read -and loved – your excellent piece, ‘A Shot in the Arm.’ While we are not academics, my husband and I are professionals, and the first in our families to have postsecondary education. There was no way to finance this aside from loans, and we too have staggering education debt between us. Some of this is on us – but frankly, when you are 18, and nobody you know has ever done education before, you don’t know what you don’t know. Check into income-sensitive repayment options, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The first means that your payment amount is based on your income; the second, that if you are in a public service profession (like teaching), any remaining debt is forgiven after ten years of your consecutive monthly income-based payments. It is the thing that is allowing us to own a home.
Take good care; may you soon have a kitchen table, blinds, and a weekly (not monthly) burrito. 🙂
I have two kids in college and feel the angst you are living. But I have already done the cost/benefit analysis for each of them. Where is the ROI? It is tough to find it on one degree. On 3 degrees?!? Not happening. The advice from your professor is absurd. It’s a great platitude, but the reality more people become successful (however you wish to define it) because of hard work and drive, not book knowledge.
Your road ahead is not going to be an easy one. But start with Dave Ramsey. There you can find a plan and the encouragement you need to move forward.
Listen in, then buy in…
hi, thank you. good luck.
Hey Josh!!! It’s Michael Jacobs, I thought I would reach out and say hello. It looks like you are doing extremely well. I was back at my mom’s this weekend and we were reminiscing. Have a Happy New Year!!!
My world would be smaller if not for you; much less without dfw. I hope I didn’t embarrass you in Toronto. I’m thrilled to see that your career is doing so well.
As your cousin I can honestly say I am both proud and ashamed of you at the same time.
I am proud of the kid from SouthWest MN. chasing a dream and complete passion. I may not understand it but it is honorable. Your devotion is invulnerable. If more people in the world would do the same there would be far more happy folks.
I am also sadly ashamed that you allowed your persuit to put you in such a bad position. With all that intelligence you have, I scratch my head trying to figure out how and why you ever let it get that far out of control.
Just know that your not alone with the above. I lived like a fool for a bunch of years as well. We made excellent money and spent like idiots. 2009 was our wakeup call. we lost it all. house, business and my job evaporated. The lawyer wanted to go with a Ch7. We said no. We went Ch13. Final Payment was in 2017. I will never regret paying back the money we spent. It changed the way we think and do things. We faught our way back in a responsible way.
keep your chin up kid.
I had just read your ‘A Shot in the Arm’ from early 2017 via Longreads. I’m in Malaysia, which is `just a developing country’. But those in academia here are decently paid enough, at the very least. I certainly didn’t expect someone in the richest and most developed country to be struggling like what you have written about!
It’s 5 years since. At least you (and I and everyone too) are still alive 🙂 Hopefully things have become much better for you.
Please stop commenting on my sites. I’m glad that things worked out for you. But also, you don’t know me. And you certainly don’t know me enough to say that you’re “sadly ashamed” of me. I didn’t blow my money frivolously. I used it to pay rent and buy groceries because graduate school exploits labor, just as academia does. That was the point of the piece.
Thank you for sharing that, Nick. I’m very touched to hear that. Honestly.
No embarrassment in Toronto! Please don’t ever worry about that. It was an experience!
Thanks, Mike! I appreciate it! A long, strange journey it has been. Please give my best to your mom! Happy Holidays!