April 30, 2016 - 10:00am

    Prairie Lights

    We hope you'll come in this Saturday to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day with us! Some special items that we'll have to help mark the day include: an exclusive, limited edition Neil Gaiman coloring book with art by Chris Riddell, X Is For . . . Vinyl, a companion record to Rad American Women A-Z,  a special signed edition of the new novel Raymie Nightingale by two-time Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo, Read with Me Curious George plush toy, A $6 Story: The Care & Feeding of an Independent Bookstore by Ann Patchett, and fun souvenir items like a canvas zippered pouch for cat lovers, literary tea towels and more!


    April 29, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Please join us for a reading in Spanish by graduating students in the Spanish Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Iowa.



    April 28, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Writers’ Workshop graduate and visiting instructor Benjamin Hale will present his new short story collection, The Fat Artist. This special event coincides with the Englert Theatre’s production The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, a play adapted from Hale’s first novel by Working Group Theater’s artistic director Sean Lewis. The play opens Friday April 29th at the Englert, so join us the night before to meet Benjamin Hale and hear him read from his new book.

    The Fat Artist is a smart, witty collection that explores the dark secrets under the surface of contemporary American lives. Hale pairs absurdity with philosophical musings on the human condition to expose the power of the secret self. From a man's illicit tryst cut short by his estranged son's homecoming, a prostitute dominatrix about to be caught with a dead US congressman, to a performance artist whose grotesque weight gain becomes an art world phenomenon, Hale's deliberate prose, dark humor, and unforgettable characters explore the secrets beneath the surface of contemporary American lives.

    Benjamin Hale’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Conjunctions, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dissent, The L Magazine, The Millions, and has been anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013. He is a senior editor of Conjunctions and teaches at Bard College, but is Visiting Faculty at the Writers’ Workshop this semester.



    April 27, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Writers’ Workshop graduate Kim Brooks will read from her new novel,
    The Houseguest.

    The book begins the summer of 1941. Abe Auer, a Russian immigrant and small-town junkyard owner, has become disenchanted with his life. When his friend, a local rabbi with a dark past, asks him to take in a European refugee, he agrees, unaware that the woman coming to live with him is a volatile and alluring actress. As news filters out of Europe, American Jews struggle to make sense of the atrocities. Some want to bury their heads in the sand while others want to create a Jewish army that would fight Hitler and promote bold, wide-spread rescue initiatives. When a popular Manhattan synagogue is burned to the ground, they all begin to feel the drumbeat of war is marching ever closer to home.

    "The Houseguest explores important questions —what is your responsibility to another person? If you could save another from terrible harm, what would you do? Kim Brooks answers through her cast of beautifully drawn, deeply human characters and a story that does not let you go.” —Karen E. Bender

    Kim Brooks's fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, One Story, and other journals. She lives in Chicago.


    April 26, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Simran Sethi will be reading from her book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. The book explores the loss of biodiversity in food and agriculture told through bread, wine, coffee, chocolate and beer. The reading will include a chocolate tasting curated by the author.

    Simran Sethi is a journalist and educator focused on food, sustainability and social change. Named the environmental “messenger” by Vanity Fair, a top 10 eco-hero of the planet by the U.K.’s Independent, and designated one of the top eight women saving the planet by Marie Claire, Sethi also was the environmental correspondent for NBC News and is the recent host of PBS QUEST series on science and sustainability. She is the contributing author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, winner of the bronze 2008 Axiom Award for Best Business Ethics Book. This special event was co-sponsored with the Tippie College of Business.

    “Read this wonderful book and you will become immersed in the intricate worlds of no less than six (delicious) foods and drinks. But this is not really a book about food. Rather, it is about our relationships with the life forms that sustain us—and how we might learn to approach those relationships with far more love, compassion, and good taste.”  – Naomi Klein


    April 25, 2016 - 7:00pm

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    Michelle Hoover will read from her haunting story of pride, love, and betrayal, set among the rugged terrain of Iowa, Bottomland. At once intimate and sweeping, Bottomland follows the Hess family in the years after World War I, as they attempt to rid themselves of the Anti-German sentiment that left a stain on their name. But when the youngest two daughters vanish in the middle of the night, the family must piece together what happened while struggling to maintain their life on the unforgiving Iowa plains.

    Michelle Hoover is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University and teaches at GrubStreet. Her debut novel, The Quickening, was a 2010 Massachusetts Book Award Must Read. She is a native of Iowa and lives in Boston.  

    "Bottomland is a magnificent, sweeping book, filled with the hardship of immigrant life and the poignancy of family ties. Michelle Hoover has taken up Willa Cather’s mantle in chronicling the beautiful nobility of the nascent American West." —Allison Amend



    April 23, 2016 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Lyell Henry will present a slideshow and discuss his new book, The Jefferson Highway, published by The University of Iowa Press. This book covers the origin, history, and significance of this pioneering road. Saluting one of the most important of the early named highways on the occasion of its 100th anniversary, historian Lyell D. Henry Jr. contributes to the growing literature on the earliest days of road-building and long-distance motoring in the United States. For readers who might also want to drive the original route of the Jefferson Highway, three chapters trace that route through Iowa, pointing out many vintage features of the roadside along the way. This is the perfect book for a summer road trip!

    Lyell D. Henry Jr. is emeritus professor of political science at Mount Mercy University, where he taught from 1982 until 1999. He is the author of two earlier books: Zig-Zag-and-Swirl: Alfred W. Lawson’s Quest for Greatness and Was This Heaven? A Self-Portrait of Iowa on Early Postcards. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.



    April 22, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Writers’ Workshop graduates Margaret Ross and Sara Deniz Akant will read from their new books of poetry.  

    Margaret Ross will read from A Timeshare, which was winner of The Omnidawn 1st/2nd Poetry Book Prize selected by Timothy Donnelly. “In Ross’s remarkably wrought and intensely arresting first collection, we finally meet a p let who knows that syntax is a Doomsday Clock. These brilliant poems are the fine, uncanny inner workings of the soulful, moving mind of a real poet.”  —Robyn Schiff

    Margaret Ross’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Fence and The New Yorker. Her work has been recognized with fellowships from the Fulbright Program, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford.

    Sara Deniz Akant will read from Babette, published by Rescue Press, selected by Maggie Nelson for the Rescue Press Black Box Poetry Prize.  "Let me tell you some things about Babette. It doesn't sound like anything else. Each page feels perfect. Each page brings an unheralded pleasure. It is a deeply weird, expert emissary from a world already fully formed."—Maggie Nelson

    Sara Deniz Akant is the author of Parades and Latronic Strag. Her work has been recognized with fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has appeared most recently in The Brooklyn Rail, The Denver Quarterly, jubilat, and Lana Turner. Akant has taught poetry and writing at the University of Iowa and the City University of New York. She currently lives and writes in Iowa City.


    April 21, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program graduate José Orduña will read from his new memoir, The Weight of Shadows.

    Tracing his story of becoming a US citizen, Orduña’s memoir explores the complex issues of immigration and assimilation in a post-9/11 United States. A trenchant exploration of race, class, and identity, The Weight of Shadows is a searing meditation on the nature of political, linguistic, and cultural borders, and explores the meaning of being American.

    The Weight of Shadows violates in a most exciting way a number of literary borders: The political essay is enclosed within a novel; tough political observation is enlivened suddenly by a rush of metaphor or lush detail from the poet’s eye; finally humor and pathos meet on the page without papers. Here is an exuberant, outlaw literary style that exactly matches the many ironies of being and not quite ever being a North American.” — Richard Rodriguez

    José Orduña was born in Cordoba, Veracruz, and immigrated to Chicago when he was two. He lives in Iowa City.



    April 20, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Mary Rakow will read from her short novel, This Is Why I Came. The story unfolds as a woman sits in prayerful meditation, waiting to offer her first confession in more than thirty years. She holds a handmade Bible on her lap that she has written anew, for herself; each story told aslant, from Jonah to Jesus, Moses to Mary Magdalen. Bernadette’s Bible  traces a line where belief and disbelief touch, the line that has been her home. Mary Rakow is the author of The Memory Room, which was shortlisted for the Stanford University Libraries International Saroyan Prize in Literature, and a PEN USA/West Finalist in Fiction. She holds a Masters from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Boston College. She lives in San Francisco where she is a freelance editor.

    "(Rakow) portrays religion not as refuge, as gift, but as an arena of mistakes, passion and error, delusion—the profoundly disruptive encounter with God. An inflammatory, Blakean tour de force."
    —Janet Fitch