The University of Iowa

Christopher Merrill remembers Joshua Casteel, NWP alum

"What shall we do? This timeless question was what animated the short life of Joshua Casteel. He was by turns a gifted linguist, military interrogator, conscientious objector, playwright, essayist, and scholar—a living testament, on the page and in the flesh, to the demands and orienting power of the moral imagination. He was determined to understand the meaning of his walk in the sun, and in his rigorous questioning of his experience, of his past, present, and possible futures, he displayed a rare courage, which inspired everyone who knew him. His death leaves a gaping hole in the lives of his family and friends—and in our literature."

In this Virginia Quarterly Review piece, Christopher Merrill, director of the  International Writing Program, offers a few words in memory of Joshua Casteel, an alumnus of the Nonfiction Writing Program.

Read the entire article here: Joshua Casteel (1979-2012)

An Arabic translator, Joshua Casteel deployed to Iraq in 2004. He served as an prisoner interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison from June 2004 to January 2005. When he refused to interrogate prisoners at Abu Ghraib, he was sent to serve at the burn pits. After returning home, Castell spoke out as a conscientious objector, as well as attending the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. His book, Letters from Abu Ghraib, chronicles his time at the prison and the struggle he felt between his faith and his duty. Joshua Casteel died on August 25, 2012 from a rare form of lung cancer, most likely contracted in connection with spending months in proximity to burn pits while serving as a soldier in Iraq.