Nancy Hanway’s short fiction and creative non-fiction has been published in The Florida Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Willow Review, WomenArts Quarterly, Washington Square Review, and in many other journals in the U.S. and internationally. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and was a finalist for the McKnight Fellowship in Creative Prose. She has lived and studied in France and Argentina, and until recently taught Latin American literature and culture at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. A native of New York State, she now lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Artist statement: 

In general my work is about love and obsession, and involves themes such as gender inequality, language, and the body.  As a writer, I’m interested in how people are changed by the languages they speak—how we adopt different personalities in different languages and how our gestures and even our bodies are transformed by words. Barcelona—a multi-lingual city that suffered nearly forty years of linguistic oppression— is an amazing place to reflect upon a community’s relationship to language.

At Jiwar I have been working on Oracles for Youth, my novel-in-progress that tells the life story of Octavia Starr, a Swedish-American tent preacher who has grown up in an impoverished mining camp on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota in the 1930s. In response to the poverty and sexual abuse in her past, Octavia creates a fake religion that promises her believers that they will live forever, if they can only live in harmony. Octavia’s new religion, called Eternalism, introduces what she calls a “language of the body” as part of its liturgy, meant to ensure that people from many languages and cultures can join in communion without the interference of the spoken word.  What starts as Octavia’s attempt to cheat the naïve becomes a passionate commitment to the tolerant and troubled community she has created. Yet as the number of Octavia’s followers grows, so do her problems with the authorities, who set out to destroy Octavia’s new world. The story is told by 104-year-old Octavia in present-day Minneapolis.

The experience at Jiwar has been incredibly rewarding.