March 3, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Zachary Jack will read from Wish You Were Here, his collection of essays whose settings encompass the diversity of the Heartland—from wooded hills to verdant croplands, from tightly knit small towns to booming suburbs. “Through his brilliant essays and books in recent years, Jack has become an essential voice of the heartland in the national cacophony, one of our best hopes for maintaining a genuine democratic pluralism.” —Jon Lauck

    Zachary Michael Jack is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including Iowa the Definitive CollectionWhat Cheer, and Corn Poll. Raised in rural Mechanicsville, he is a graduate of City High School in Iowa City.  He currently teaches courses in rural studies, writing, and the environment as an associate professor of English and member of the Urban and Suburban Studies and Environmental Studies faculties at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.


    February 28, 2017 - 7:00pm

    U of I associate professors Lena and Michael Hill will talk about their book, Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa During the Long Civil Rights Era.  Between the 1930s and 1960s, the University of Iowa sought to assert its modernity, cosmopolitanism, and progressivism through an increased emphasis on the fine and performing arts and athletics. Invisible Hawkeyes tells the stories of some of the African American students who enrolled at UI during the years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. As those students earned degrees in the arts, performed in athletic competitions and participated in campus life, they contributed to civil rights struggles. Their musical, literary, and athletic accomplishments simultaneously ennobled black cultural experiences and confirmed the power of interracial partnership. By examining the quiet collisions between Iowa’s polite midwestern progressivism and African American students’ determined ambition, Invisible Hawkeyes reveals how fraught moments of interracial collaboration, meritocratic advancement, and institutional insensitivity deepen our understanding of America’s painful conversion into a diverse republic committed to racial equality.

    “This vital and important work, recovering the lives of early black students at the university, makes even larger claims about the prominence of the Midwest in national conversations about race and African American art and artistic styles.”—Lawrence Jackson

    Lena and Michael Hill are associate professors in the Department of English and the African American Studies Program, both part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. They are both coauthors of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: A Reference Guide.


    February 27, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Author/Musician John Darnielle will read from his new book, Universal Harvester.  Set in the 1990’s in a small town Iowa, this  masterful and unsettling novel tells the story of a video store clerk who finds strange and disturbing clips recorded over the store's VHS tapes.

    John Darnielle’s first novel, Wolf in White Van, was a New York Times bestseller, National Book Award nominee, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction, and widely hailed as one of the best novels of the year. He is the writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and sons.


    February 26, 2017 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Mindy Mejia will read from her razor-sharp literary thriller, Everything You Want Me to Be. Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of Hattie Hoffman: good student, good daughter, good citizen, girl who is brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play. Shelf Awareness says, "Readers will surely find this unsettling, character-driven descent into secret desires and hidden faces everything they wanted to see from a talented writer and then some."

    Mindy Mejia received her MFA from Hamline University. The granddaughter of Minnesota farmers, she is the author of the y/a book The Dragon Keeper, and lives in the Twin Cities.

    "Ms. Mejia displays the enviable ability and assurance of such contemporaries as Megan Abbott and Laura Lippman in convincingly charting inter-generational passion and angst." —The Wall Street Journal


    February 24, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Rachelle Chase will read from her new book Lost Buxton. In 1900, at a time when Jim Crow, segregation, and the Ku Klux Klan kept blacks and whites separated, residents in Buxton, Iowa—a thriving coal mining town established by Consolidation Coal Company—lived, worked, and went to school side by side. African Americans—miners, teachers, business owners, doctors, lawyers, and more—made up more than half of the population for the first 10 years and remained the largest ethnic group until 1914. By 1922, Buxton was a ghost town. Using photographs and rare audio clips from interviews with former Buxton residents, Author Rachelle Chase will share what made Buxton so unique, both in terms of the residents and the town itself, and why Buxton is still being talked about today.

    Rachelle Chase works as a senior business analyst for Fortune 500 companies, continues to research Buxton, and is a budding photographer, specializing in photos of bugs and food—though, hopefully, not in the same photo.


    February 23, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    CANCELLED -- Lisa Knopp will read about her struggles with anorexia in Bread: A Memoir of Hunger, from University of Missouri Press. When she was 54, Lisa Knopp’s weight dropped to a number on the scale that she hadn’t seen since seventh grade. The severe food restricting that left her thin and sick when she was 15 and 25 had returned. This time, she was determined to understand the causes of her malady and how she could heal from a condition that is caused by a tangle of genetic, biological, familial, psychological, cultural, and spiritual factors. This compelling memoir, at once a food and illness narrative, explores the forces that cause eating disorders and disordered eating, including the link between those conditions in women, middle-aged and older, and the fear of aging and ageism.

    Lisa Knopp is the author of five collections of essays about place, nature, and spirituality. She is professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.


    February 22, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    We're reading Peace Like A River by Leif Enger. Join Paul and fellow booklovers for a discussion. 

    Young Reuben Land has little doubt that miracles happen all around us, suspecting that his own father is touched by God. When his older brother flees a controversial murder charge, Reuben, along with his older sister and father, set off on a journey that will take them to the Badlands and through a landscape more extraordinary than they could have anticipated. Enger's novel is at once a heroic quest and a haunting meditation on the possibility of magic in the everyday world.


    February 21, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Eleni Sikélianòs will read from her new book from Coffee House Press, Make Yourself Happy.  “With her native Greek wisdom and her American exuberance, Eleni takes us into the different layers which make our daily lives, perceptions, thoughts . . . as they take form, and thanks to her become an initiatique, even archeological, journey. Besides the pleasure we feel, we see here a moral endeavor, an invitation to make ourselves happy. Her journey finds its energy in her perfect ear for language and immense generosity of heart.”—Etel Adnan

    Eleni Sikélianòs is the author of six books of poetry, most recently The Loving Detail of the Living and the Dead and The California Poem, which was a Barnes & Noble Best of the Year, as well as hybrid memoirs, The Book of Jon and You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek). Sikélianòs teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver. A California native, longtime New Yorker, and world traveler, she lives in Boulder, Colorado.



    February 17, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Poets Ed Skoog and Juliet Patterson will read from their new books of poetry.

    Ed Skoog will read from Run the Red Lights. "Ed Skoog is a master of mischief and misdirection ... I find a unique alchemy in this book: a deep sadness combined with broad humor, and most of all a sense that I'm being allowed to see a poet watching himself in the midst of evolving, captured in motion like a series of time-lapse photographs." —Prairie Schooner

    Ed Skoog is the author of Rough Day and Mister Skylight as well as the chapbooks Tool Kit , L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, and Field Recordings. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and was most recently a visiting writer at the University of Montana.

    Juliet Patterson will read from Threnody, a lament. “It is Juliet Patterson’s lament, in particular, that brings us to such spare and evocative utterances that deftly construct “a little hole in the eye.” I am simply in awe of what I find in this collection.”—Prageeta Sharma

    Patterson is the author of The Truant Lover, winner of the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize, and the chapbooks Epilogue and Dirge. As a community activist and artist, Patterson has worked on a number of collaborative projects related to place-making and the environment. She lives in Minneapolis with her partner and son.


    February 16, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    IWP Director Christopher Merrill will read from his new memoir, Self-Portrait With Dogwood. In the course of researching dogwood trees, poet and essayist Merrill realized that a number of formative moments in his life had some connection to the tree named—according to one writer—because its fruit was not fit for a dog. As he approached his sixtieth birthday, Merrill began to compose a self-portrait alongside this tree whose lifespan is comparable to a human’s and that, from an early age, he’s regarded as a talisman. This memoir provides new ways of thinking about personal history, the environment, politics, faith, and the power of the written word.

    Merrill is the author of numerous books including poetry collections Boat, Brilliant Water, and Watch Fire; many edited volumes and translations; nonfiction Things of the Hidden God and The Tree of the Doves. He most recently published a collaboration with Marvin Bell called After the Fact: Scripts & Post Scripts.  Merrill directs the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa, serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, has conducted cultural diplomacy missions in over thirty countries for the U.S. State Department, and in 2012 President Obama appointed Merrill to the National Council on the Humanities.

    “Merrill, like the dogwood seeds and seedlings, roams the planet, appearing or pausing at unexpected moments in history. The migrant trees sink their roots in various foreign soils; the man, though wandering―even in zones of war―remains rooted in the humus of poetry.” ― Eliot Weinberger