Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Julie Coltman

Julie Coltman, Essay Contest Winner in the Second-Year Category, 2018-2019 

Julia Coltman is a VIU English major who has always loved reading and dreams of one day opening an independent bookstore. She was, however, a bit nervous when she realized that her English course in pop culture would focus on espionage fiction, a genre that was new to her and about which she is, admittedly, still “iffy.” Despite her initial hesitancy, however, Julia’s winning essay is a thoughtful and perceptive analysis of power, knowledge, and surveillance in Dave Eggers’ The Circleand, as Professor Sandra Hagan describes, “a compelling case about the hunger for transparency in our ‘media-saturated’ world.”

When asked what drew her to the topic of her award-winning essay, Julia acknowledges the relevance and currency of its themes, pointing out that the inevitability of surveillance from tech and human idolization of tech is problematic. “I hate to sound old-timey and paranoid about it, because I can’t deny that certain elements of surveillance and those advanced technologies are convenient, and, for lack of better word, just plain cool.There should be a limit, though, and the point where it starts to create more problems, which are then solved by even more developments in tech—that’s where I feel we start to run ourselves into some trouble,” reflects Julia. 

Now entering her third year of English at VIU, Julia describes her student experience as positive, attesting to the variety of diverse works she has been able to read, noting that analyzing literature has not taken away her joy of reading but that sharing the experience with students and different professors has “served to make reading even more beautiful and interesting.” She particularly values the freedom in her classes to engage with and critique all works of literature, observing the flaws and injustices of works that are deemed historically important and valuable. 

When asked for her favourite book, Julia resists being pinned down. Writers such as Elie Wiesel (Open Heart) and Richard Wagamese (Indian Horse) inspire her for the way their books hold onto “kindness and love and belief in the good of humanity” despite the horrible things to which they attest. She also loves V.E. Schawb’s books and puts them at the top of her list, observing that “a mix of fantasy, royal politics, magic, parallel worlds and traveling between them, and morally ambiguous protagonists will always win [her] heart.”

Despite her success in English studies so far, it hasn’t been entirely easy for Julia to find her voice in class or to believe that her ideas are worth contributing. Acknowledging that this is something she will continue to work on in the next few years, Julia encourages other students to do the same:  “Putting your ideas out there is also the best way to find like-minded humans and to make fast friends.” And, while literary analysis, intriguing class conversation, and personal joy of reading feed her soul and definitely sustain her personal and academic life, Julia claims that what’s often needed for “crunch-time stress relief” during the semester is to indulge in the Netflix baking competition Nailed It, which features contestants who are “at best amateurs and at worst completely clueless in the kitchen” and is “the best kind of ridiculous.”