Lowell native David Moloney published his book “Barker House” in April. A Middlesex Community College and UMass Lowell alum, he now lectures in English and Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University.
Before becoming an author, Moloney worked at Valley Street County jail in Manchester, N.H., and his time there inspired him to write his book.
Moloney’s original concept for the book was to write nonfiction based on his experience, but feedback from friends helped him develop his idea into a novel. Characters and storylines are somewhat based on his real-life experiences, with necessary changes to protect the people he knows and to make the overall story more interesting.
While some of the content can be dark, Moloney said he infused his stories with some lightheartedness and humor so each chapter can feel like a fresh start.
“Barker House” offers the point of view of nine narrators over the course of a year. Some perspectives have multiple chapters, others disappear or return as secondary characters.
“I wanted to use that structure because that’s how prison works,” Moloney said. “People come and go — it’s a revolving door. I did it that way because it’s a novel in stories. Each chapter is its own story, but when you read it all together, it’s another larger story. You can read one chapter and still be satisfied, or you can read the whole book, and it will come together.”
While working at the jail, Moloney took classes at Middlesex to get an Associate degree in Liberal Arts. He had started at another college a decade before, but the credits expired. With a baby at home, his goal was to finish his education as quickly as possible, and MCC helped him get there.
“I did the MassTransfer program,” he said. “It guaranteed that my credits transferred to UMass Lowell — that was mostly what I was concerned about. I was 26 and I didn’t want to feel like I was wasting any time. That program guaranteed that every minute I spent on campus would be used toward a four-year degree. It was a seamless process.”
When he first got to Middlesex, Moloney thought he would be the oldest in the classroom and that he wouldn’t fit in. He soon realized there were students in their 60s and 70s and that age didn’t matter. It also wasn’t a problem that it had been 10 years since he was first in school. MCC made him feel comfortable and set him up for success.
“The teachers are great, and they understand a lot of the students are working a lot of hours, working third shift, they’re showing up to class in uniform or they have young kids,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing you get with community colleges and Middlesex. Professors and adjuncts and support staff at community colleges just know the students they have and the support they need.”
MCC Professor Emeritus Jean Trounstine, a prison activist and accomplished writer, taught Moloney’s English Composition courses. According to Moloney, they would talk about his experiences working in the prison, and he said they continue to meet and talk about writing every few months.
Trounstine also inspired his decision to teach at the college level. Now, as a lecturer, Moloney believes in promoting a classroom that is welcoming and inclusive, rather than intimidating.
Although he was nervous to start at MCC, the culture on campus and the support from his professors put him at ease — and that’s how he wants his own students to feel in his classroom.
“You shouldn’t feel lucky to pass a class,” he said. “I think Middlesex and the way the teachers approach their classes, they understand what college is supposed to be. It should be a learning experience, and it should set you up for your next plan in life.”
It’s that culture of openness and success that helps Moloney teach a course on MCC’s Lowell campus, for the Lowell court system called Changing Lives Through Literature. The course gives people in the court system an opportunity to read and discuss literature. Many of those who finish the course may see a reduction in court fees or time on their probation.
“A lot of them reluctantly take my class because they hate reading or they haven’t read a book in a long time, and then, by the end, they wish they could take more classes or read more books,” Moloney said. “We read a book, and we talk about the characters’ actions and what they could have done better or differently, and I can see them thinking about themselves within the character and within the book.”
MCC is celebrating its 50th year starting in next month. If you have ever taken a class at Middlesex, you are an alumni. For more information, contact Amy Lee, director of annual giving and alumni relations, at 978-656-3028 or [email protected]
To register for classes, visit www.middlesex.mass.edu/registration, or call 800-818-3434. The fall semester will starts Sept. 9, mostly online.