November 14, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    James Beard Award-winning author of Poor Man's Feast Elissa Altman will read from her powerful, heartfelt, and insightful memoir of one Jewish American's quest for identity in an unkosher world, Treyf. Every part of Altman’s youth was laced with contradiction and hope, betrayal and the yearning for acceptance: synagogue on Saturday and Chinese pork ribs on Sunday; bat mitzvahs followed by shrimp-in-lobster-sauce luncheons; her old-country grandparents, whose kindness and love were tied to unspoken rage, and her bell-bottomed neighbors, whose adoring affection hid dark secrets.

    Elissa Altman writes the Washington Post column, Feeding My Mother, and her work has appeared everywhere from and O, The Oprah Magazine to Tin House, the New York Times and the TEDx stage, and has been anthologized for five consecutive years in Best Food Writing.


    November 13, 2016 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Frances  Cannon will read from her two recently published books of poetry. Tropicalia, published by Vagabond Press, is a collaboration with Filipino poet Mookie-Katigbak Lacuesta, who visited during last year's International Writing Program. Uranian Fruit, is a collection of Frances's poetry published by Honeybee Press in Vermont.

    Frances Cannon is a writer and artist currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Iowa. She was born in Utah and since then has lived and worked on her art and writing in Oregon, Maine, Montana, Vermont, California, France, Italy, and Guatemala. She is currently working on a graphic memoir, and has work forthcoming in Poetry magazine and The Iowa Review.



    November 11, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    In a special event sponsored by the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, Thalia Field will read from her new “tragic, comical, and utterly fascinating” essayistic fiction, Experimental Animals.  "Stemming from a through-line of marital discord in the household of the great French vivisector, Claude Bernard, Thalia Field has discovered a number of voices, some famous, some forgotten, and allowed them all a moment in which to be heard again. This compelling tale is made up largely of excerpts and quotations, pieced together with great artistry. A beautiful and thought-provoking collage of a tale of rescued history and a sobering tribute to some of its victims." —Karen Joy Fowler                            

    Thalia Field is the author of Point and Line, Incarnate: Story Material, and Bird Lovers, Backyard, all from New Directions. Her performance novel, Ululu, was published with Coffee House Press, and she has two collaborations with French author Abigail Lang: A Prank of Georges and the forthcoming Leave to Remain.


    November 9, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Writers’ Workshop graduate Michelle Falkoff and Pushcart Nominee Calla Devlin will read from their new Young Adult novels.

    Michelle Falkoff will read from Pushing Perfect, a multi-layered mystery about a high school teen whose struggles to maintain perfect grades lead to performance-crippling anxiety attacks. After a friend offers her a drug to ace the PSAT’s, new pressures come from a mysterious blackmailer. “Twists and turns abound . . . Reminiscent of the novels of Joan Lowery Nixon and Lois Duncan.” — School Library Journal

    Michelle Falkoff is the author of Playlist of the Dead, which was one of NPR's Great Reads in 2015. Falkoff is a Clinical Associate Professor of Law and the Director of the Communication and Legal Reasoning Program at Northwestern University. She lives in Chicago.

    Pushcart nominee Calla Devlin will read from Tell Me Something Real. This novel is about three sisters who travel to a Mexican clinic across the border so that their mother, ill with leukemia, can receive alternative treatments. “An intriguing tale of illness, love, loss, and betrayal that is sure to reel in teens looking for something with a little bit of darkness hidden in the pages.” —School Library Journal  

    Devlin is the winner of the Best of Blood and Thunder Award, and her stories have been included in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond, for which she was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Magazine. She lives in Des Moines.

  • THE WITCHING HOUR (presented by Mission Creek Festival)

    November 5, 2016 - 12:00pm

    Prairie Lights, The Mill, The Englert

    12 pm: THE FAIL SAFE PODCAST: Alissa Nutting, Jessica Hopper & Rachel Yoder
    This live podcast brings together writers Alissa Nutting and Jessica Hopper to discuss the creative process and all of its engrossing, infuriating, and invigorating aspects. Rachel Yoder, host and creator of The Fail Safe podcast, will moderate. Hopper is the author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, and Nutting is the author of Tampa.

    2 pm: RESEARCHING THE AMERICAN DREAM: Aimee Groth & Timothy Denevi
    Writers Aimee Groth and Timothy Denevi explore the American Dream through the prism of an ambitious corporate social engineering experiment and Hunter S. Thompson’s career. Groth is a business journalist for Quartz, a division of Atlantic Media Company, based in New York City. Denevi is the author of Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD.

    4 pm: WRITERS OF COLOR at The Mill
    Attendees must have Witching Hour festival passes, available at the Englert Theatre
    Featuring undergrad and MFA writers of color, and visiting writer Rachel McKibbens.

    Alea Adigweme, Teresa Mangum, Rachel McKibbens & Katie Roche  

    Female artists and activists Katie Roche, alea adigweme, Teresa Mangum, Merit Bickner, and Rachel McKibbens discuss why women seek out female-only spaces and how they operate differently.

    A reading dedicated to late poet Max Ritvo as part of his posthumous book tour for Four Reincarnations featuring: Kaveh Akbar, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Michael Bazzett, Jane Mead, Justin Boening, Danny Khalastchi, Robyn Schiff, Devon Walker-Figueroa, and Timothy Taranto.

    Attendees must have festival passes, available at the Englert Theatre
    Comedian and author Jen Kirkman will perform at the Englert. Kirkman is the author of I Know What I'm Doing —and Other Lies I Tell Myself, and I Can Barely Take Care of Myself. Dubbed “a thinking person’s comedian” by the A.V. Club, Jen Kirkman makes you laugh and think with her stand-up set. Kirkman is the author of I Know What I'm Doing —and Other Lies I Tell Myself, and I Can Barely Take Care of Myself. Books will be for sale at the event.


    Attendees must have Witching Hour festival passes, available at the Englert Theatre
    After her stand-up set, comedian Jen Kirkman will sit down for an in-depth discussion on her writing and creative process. Kirkman is the author of I Know What I'm Doing —and Other Lies I Tell Myself, and I Can Barely Take Care of Myself. Books will be for sale at the event.



    November 3, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Poets Dana Levin and Justin Boening will read from their new collections,
    Banana Palace and Not On The Last Day, But On The Very Last.

    In Banana Palace, Dana Levin uses humor, jump-cut imagery, and pop culture references in preparation for the approaching apocalypse. Against a backdrop of Facebook, cat memes, and students searching their smartphones for a definition of the soul, Levin draws upon a culture of limited attention spans as it searches for greater spiritual meaning. Dana Levin has published three books of poetry, Wedding Day, Sky Burial, and  In the Surgical Theatre, which won the APR/Honickman Award. A teacher of poetry for over twenty years, Levin splits her time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Maryville University in St. Louis, where she serves as Distinguished Writer in Residence.

    Justin Boening’s Not On The Last Day, But On The Very Last, was selected for The National Poetry Series by Wayne Miller. John Ashbery says that "his lines consistently elude our expectations but somehow encourage and fulfill them in doing so. Surprise is a recurring texture throughout these shimmering poems . . . Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last is a stunning achievement.” Lucie Brock-Broido says that his work is "fearless, self-deprecating, ironic, sublime, heartbreaking, and beautifully wrought.”    Justin Boening is  also the author of chapbook, Self-Portrait as Missing Person. His poetry has received a Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize, fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and The  Vermont Studio Center. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of the Arts, Boening is currently a senior associate editor at Poetry Northwest and an instructor at the Columbia University Summer High School Program. He lives in Iowa City, IA.

  • COLSON WHITEHEAD at The Englert Theatre

    November 2, 2016 - 7:00pm

    The Englert Theatre

    Prairie Lights presents Colson Whitehead at The Englert Theatre. Please join us for this FREE event with New York Times Bestselling author Colson Whitehead. He will read from and talk about his new novel, The Underground Railroad which has been selected for Oprah’s Book Club and is a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. The novel manages to feel historical yet contemporary as a young slave, 15-year-old Cora, flees the antebellum South. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.

    Colson Whitehead is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the author of The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, Sag Harbor, Zone One, The Colossus of New York, and The Noble Hustle. Prairie Lights encourages everyone to come to this momentous reading with one of the great writers of our time. Books will be available for purchase, and Colson Whitehead will be happy to sign books purchased at the event or from Prairie Lights. Every book purchase helps Prairie Lights bring great authors to Iowa City!

  • GREIL MARCUS at The Englert Theatre

    November 1, 2016 - 7:00pm

    The Englert Theatre

    In a special event sponsored by the UI Nonfiction Writing Program, celebrated music critic Greil Marcus will read from his acclaimed writing on November 1, 2016 at 7 p.m. at The Englert Theatre, in an event that is free and open to the public.

    Enormously influential, intensely prolific, and ardently engaged, Marcus served as Rolling Stone’s original reviews editor and has since written and edited more than fifteen books on music and American culture. Marcus is the author of the seminal work Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, called “the best and funniest book ever written about America or its music” by Rolling Stone, “the book that launched a thousand rock critics” by the New Yorker, and “perhaps the finest book ever written about pop music” by the New York Times Book Review.   

    Among Marcus’s other books are Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads, The Shape of Things To Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music, 1977–1992, The Doors: A Life of Listening to Five Mean Years, and The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Ten Songs. A contributor to the New York Times, Esquire, Creem, the Village Voice, Artforum, Salon, the Believer, Pitchfork, and others, Marcus has written his long-running column, “Real Life Rock Top Ten,” for the past three decades. At once timely and timeless, sly and surprising, breathless and wild in its reach, Marcus’s virtuosic prose continues to energize critics, writers, musicians, and lovers of American culture.

    Greil Marcus’s visit is sponsored by the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Provost’s Office, The Englert Theatre and Prairie Lights Books.



    October 29, 2016 - 3:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Iowa native Dan Kellams will read from Mistaken for a King: Sketches of a Small-Town Boyhood. This collection of essays distills the essence of childhood when kids roamed free as sparrows. In Marion, Iowa, during the 1940s, untouched by television, they created their own amusement wherever they found it, in backyards, side streets, alleys, and pastures. In Mistaken for a King, Kellam patrols his old haunts; the movie theater, the town park, and the root beer drive-in, and the muddy Wapsipinicon River. It tells the tribulations of being a newspaper delivery boy, and the joys of learning sports in backyards and vacant lots. He also writes about things like gun ownership at a time during World War II when every boy expected to grow up and fight for his country.

    Kellams is the author of A Coach's Life: Les Hipple and the Marion Indians. He is a graduate of Cornell College in Mount Vernon and holds an MS in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. He was an information specialist at West Point, an editor for Radio Free Europe in Munich, and a public relations executive in New York. Kellams and his wife, Elaine, currently live in Arizona.

    "Rich and beautiful. Don't miss this book." --Paul Ingram


    October 28, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Chuck Collins will read from Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good. Born into the one percent, Collins gave away his inheritance at 26 and spent the next three decades mobilizing against inequality. He uses his perspective from both sides of the divide to deliver a new narrative. Collins calls for a ceasefire and invites the wealthy to come back home, investing themselves and their wealth in struggling communities. And he asks the non-wealthy to build alliances with the one percent and others at the top of the wealth ladder.

    Chuck Collins is a researcher, campaigner, storyteller, and writer based at the Institute for Policy Studies where he co-edits He has written extensively on wealth inequality in previous books like 99 to 1, Wealth and Our Commonwealth (with Bill Gates Sr.), and Economic Apartheid in America as well as in The Nation, The American Prospect, and numerous other magazines and news outlets. He lives near Boston.

    Born on Third Base offers a clear and compelling case for why the privileged and powerful must act to reverse widening inequality of income, wealth, and political power in America.” —Robert B. Reich, former US Secretary of Labor; author of Saving Capitalism