Fiction and nonfiction writer Jennifer Percy read from her recently published nonfiction book “Demon Camp: A Soldier’s Exorcism” at the University of Indianapolis’ Kellogg Writers Series event on April 3.
In “Demon Camp,” Percy describes her experiences with a veteran of the Afghanistan war and the time she spent in a rural Georgia faith community that performs exorcisms on veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.
Sophomore professional writing major Kayleigh Jordan said that as soon as Percy got up to speak, she was automatically listening.
“It was the way she talked. It really fed into her reading,” Jordan said. “She didn’t talk all happy and giddy. She had a depressing and monotone voice, which really went with what she wrote.”
Percy said that she started researching in 2008 between the surges in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was appalled by the statistics on the number of soldiers who were committing suicide after coming home.
“I felt that I hadn’t been reading a story that really told the narrative of homecoming for our current wars through a character, and followed one man’s story from the beginning to end, and was not interested in the language of PTSD that was mired in psychological terms or political terms,” Percy said. “I sort of wanted to hear what people were talking about when they were talking about PTSD that didn’t really care about that vocabulary either and wanted to understand what it was like to come home haunted by the past.”
Percy said that when she first started looking for people who would be willing to talk to her, she went to different veterans associations and friends who were veterans or knew veterans, until she found “Caleb.” Percy said that she changed the name to keep him away from criticism.
“Through word of mouth, I met a friend who knew someone who knew someone who knew ‘Caleb,’” she said. “I immediately got in touch with him, and he was much more willing than other vets to talk. So I kind of took a chance, drove down to Georgia and met him.”
“Demon Camp” is a nonfiction book, and Percy said that she likes writing nonfiction because it is an exciting genre to explore right now and that she likes to let her imagination rise out of personal interactions.
“I think that there is really interesting territory to be explored, especially in telling stories that are personal but have political resonance,” Percy said. “On a more practical level, I just like going out and talking to people and seeing the world and being out in the world, and that gives me energy, as opposed to sitting in my room and trying to imagine the world.”
Jordan said that she has never read nonfiction before, but after the reading, she now has plans to read “Demon Camp” during the summer.
“I thought the way she [Percy] wrote it was more like fiction,” Jordan said. “She told a story, and it wasn’t like a biography. It was dark. It dealt with PTSD, and I’m interested in that, psychological disorders and the war.”