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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Alum presents book talk about acclaimed memoir

Joseph Earl Thomas ’17 M.A. reads from his book, “Sink: A Memoir,” at a book talk Oct. 3 in Doyle North. Thomas was in conversation with Aisha D. Lockridge, Ph.D., associate professor of communication and media studies. PHOTO: THE HAWK

Joseph Earl Thomas M.A. ’17 returned to Hawk Hill Oct. 3 for a discussion about his first book “Sink: A Memoir” released February of this year.

“Blerd Stories: An Evening With Joseph Earl Thomas” focused on the conversation between Thomas and Aisha D. Lockridge, Ph.D., associate professor of communication and media studies. Thomas read a passage from his work and discussed his childhood experiences that initially inspired the book.

“I was trying to think about this relationship between childhood and adulthood, and what part of those experiences break out when you comport yourself in the world,” Thomas said.

Thomas said his decision to become a writer was influenced by how his relationship with language changed during his time in the Writing Studies graduate program in the English department and time spent as a tutor in the Writing Center.

“That was where I spent a lot of time when I was on campus when I wasn’t in classes,” Thomas said. “That helped sharpen my attention to how people were using language, what people expected of language, what people weren’t even thinking about with regards to language that I thought was super important to me, that they were like, ‘Oh, but I don’t want to talk about that,’ and it was all I wanted to talk about.”

Thomas had plans to enter the medical field, but that changed during his graduate program.

“At the time when I met Aisha, I was at Drexel. I was studying medicine at Drexel for a little bit and then I dropped out, in part because I wasn’t intellectually satisfied,” Thomas said. “I didn’t feel socially or intellectually satisfied, and I had begun to admit that writing was a thing that did satisfy me intellectually.”

Lockridge acknowledged Thomas’ journey was an unorthodox and inspirational one not only for his success, but also for how he was able to find his place amidst adversity.

“He started as someone who wasn’t even supposed to be in literature,” Lockridge said in an interview after the event. “So what’s the path? I think sometimes we learn from the example and hearing that messy story of how he got to be where he is. I think we also learn from our peers, sometimes not just from the success stories, but also from the messy story.”

Thomas Brennan, S.J., chair of English, writing and journalism, one of several sponsors of the event, said he found Thomas’ approach to writing his memoir to be very interesting.

“I had not thought about this whole idea of explaining something from a child’s perspective,” Brennan said.

Likewise RJ Hall ’24, said he was also intrigued by how Thomas structured the book’s narrative.

“I was really struck by how he was so mindful with avoiding cliche,” Hall said. “His choice to end the novel before he entered adulthood purposefully was really powerful. I appreciated the intentionality behind that.”

Dinithi Weerasinghe ’27, who read “Sink” as a required text for an English class posed a question to Thomas during the Q&A portion of the event, and found his answer intriguing.

“I had asked a question about why or how he chose to be so vulnerable within the book and he gave me an interesting perspective, that there was no secrecy within what he’s used to,” Weerasinghe said. “So he didn’t feel that it was him being vulnerable, it was just the outright truth of everything.”

Thomas’ journey from being a medic in the Army National Guard to an aspirant medical student to a New York Times book reviewed author offers hope to those unsure of their path, their goals or their identity.

“You don’t need to know exactly what it is you want to do in order to get somewhere,” Lockridge said.

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