Like many literary authors, I was an early writer, drawing stories on scraps of paper that I stapled together to make books: I seemed born to it. However, I was not an early reader. Learning to read was a struggle for me, for reasons unknown, though bad teaching is the prime suspect. At home with my unusually well-educated parents and smart older sister, luckily, I was surrounded by books: philosophy, history, art, religion, the literary classics. Everyone read. Motivated by wanting to not be the stupid one in the family, I dragged myself through one classic after another, year after year, until I was an adept reader.
In adolescence I fell in love with Hardy’s Return of the Native and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I read to escape into other worlds, but equally I read for ideas. Literature, I realized, held necessary insights into human culture, human nature, other minds. It tackled the important questions the real world seemed only marginally interested in: What drives people toward evil? What makes a life meaningful? How do we live with the damage others inevitably inflict on us? I loved literature for what it taught me.
Though I grew up in southeast Virginia and Philadelphia, I moved to St. Louis to attend Washington University, majoring in English and becoming the first solo female editor of the student newspaper. Much to everyone’s dismay, I did not pin down a husband there. Instead I went to graduate school for an MA in writing and a PhD in education. Now I am a professor of literacy education at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, where I teach K-12 classroom teachers how to better teach reading and writing—because literacy is truly the key to a meaningful life.
Through the years of working toward tenure and raising my daughter, I kept writing fiction. My stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, Willow Springs, TriQuarterly, Necessary Fiction, The Literary Review, Roanoke Review, The Chicago Reader, and many other journals. I’m the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award; my short fiction has been produced by Stories on Stage, broadcast on NPR, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My first novel, Scorch (Soft Skull Press, 2001), is a dystopian critique of how unregulated capitalism impacts individual lives.
All of my fiction investigates the sociopolitical in the personal: the impact of culture on identity; the mechanisms of power in personal relationships; the evolution of cultural beliefs to ensure the marginalized remain in the margins; the challenges of life in a hyper-capitalist culture that, despite our democratic ideals, necessitates inequality. These are issues I feel an urgency to explore.
Currently I work and live in the Chicago area, in a hundred-year-old house, which sounds historic but really it’s just old. Nevertheless, I consider myself breathtakingly lucky to have so many sources of joy in my life: my wonderful daughter, family and friends, my students, my work, and a tubby tuxedo cat.
Regal House is proud to bring you A.D. Nauman’s Down the Steep in the fall of 2023.