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Josh Roiland is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies and the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy at the University of Notre Dame. He researches and teaches courses on the cultural, political, and economic significances of the news media in America. He is specifically interested in the historical role the press has played in serving American democracy, the political significance of literary journalism, the relationship between popular conceptions of the press and the way citizens interact with the news, and the future of news in the digital age. Roiland received his Ph.D. in American Studies from St. Louis University and is currently revising his dissertation into the manuscript The Elements of Literary Journalism: The Political Promise of Narrative News. Before coming to Notre Dame, Roiland was a SAGES Teaching Fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, where he was a 2012 nominee for Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. His article "Getting Away From It All: The Literary Journalism of David Foster Wallace and Nietzche's Concept of Obliviion" was recently published in the Legacy of David Foster Wallace (U. Iowa Press, 2012) alongside works from noted American authors Don DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen, George Saunders, and others.

A Shot in the Arm

Josh Roiland | Longreads | February 2017 | 14 minutes (3,710 words)


“Who’s sticking today?” the man asked.

He wore tan work boots and rough jeans. He told a friend in the waiting room that he had a couple hours off work and thought he’d stop in for some extra cash. The receptionist told him the names of that day’s phlebotomists. He paused. Sliding a 16-gauge needle into someone’s arm is tricky, and the man reconsidered. Instead of signing in, he announced to the room that he’d come back tomorrow and try his luck.

I’d driven 107 miles from my home in Bangor, Maine to the BPL Plasma Center in Lewiston to collect $50 for having my arm punctured and a liter of my plasma sucked out. The actual donation takes about 35 minutes, but the drive and its attendant wait makes for an eight-hour day. I clocked in for that trip five times this summer.

I’m a professor at the University of Maine. My salary is $52,000, and I am a year away from tenure. But like everyone else in that room, I was desperate for money. Read more…