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



    April 19, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Elizabeth Crane will read from her novel, The History of Great Things. In this glorious new book, Elizabeth Crane accomplishes something extraordinary: In a witty, emotionally enveloping dual narrative, she traces the entwined stories of two women—a passionate, strong-willed midcentury classical singer and her conflicted daughter—as each woman attempts to tell the story of the other’s eventful life.

    Elizabeth Crane is the author of the novel We Only Know So Much, and three collections of short stories: When the Messenger is Hot, All this Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter. Her stories have been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts, and her work has been adapted for the stage by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company. A feature film adaptation of We Only Know So Much will be released in 2016. She teaches in the UCR-Palm Desert low-residency MFA program.

    “Elizabeth Crane has written a novel that is both unprecedented and fantastic (in every sense). Her every page thrums with wisdom, buzzes with truth. I learned that love survives death. And that no one ever really goes away, even if they have. And that all sides have many stories. This is unlike any novel I ve ever encountered and it’s absolutely wonderful.” —Jill Alexander Essbaum



    April 16, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Acclaimed journalist  Dennis Covington will read from Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World. Covington spent years traveling deep into places such as  Syria, Mexico, and the American South, looking for the faith in humanity that makes difficult times bearable for people living at the edges of violence. Dennis Covington is the author of Salvation on Sand Mountain, a 1995 National Book Award finalist. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

    "This moving and riveting first-person account will appeal to those interested in the Syrian conflict as well as readers who enjoy faith journeys such as those by Anne Lamott and Nadia Bolz-Weber." —Library Journal (starred review)


    April 15, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Tin House co-editor Rob Spillman will read from his new memoir, All Tomorrow’s Parties. The son of two musicians, Spillman has devoted his life to the rebellious pursuit of artistic authenticity. Michael Hainey describes All Tomorrow’s Parties:  “Part survivor's manual, part travelogue, part cultural history, it's a story of an arts-mad, idealistic, brave young man struggling to make his way —and find a place in the world. Set in large part against the backdrop of Berlin in the raucous months after the wall was torn down and people struggled with re-unification, Spillman unspools a story that will resonate with everyone who's ever searched for home.”

    Rob Spillman is editor of Tin House magazine and editorial advisor of Tin House Books. He was previously the monthly book columnist for Details magazine and is a contributor of book reviews and essays to Salon and Bookforum. He has written for the Boston Review, Details,  Bookforum, GQ,  the New York Times Book Review, Rolling Stone, Spin, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, and Vogue, among other magazines, newspapers, and online magazines. He teaches at various MFA programs, including Columbia University.


    April 13, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Poets Kyle McCord and Wayne Miller will read from their new poetry collections.  

    Kyle McCord will read from Magpies in the Valley of Oleanders from Trio House Press. Kyle McCord is the author of five books of poetry including You Are Indeed an Elk, But This is Not the Forest You Were Born to Graze, and Gentle, World, Gentler. His work has been featured in AGNI, Boston Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly and elsewhere. The founding editor of American Microreviews and Interviews, he lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and teaches at Drake University.

    Wayne Miller will read from his new book published by Milkweed, Post-. Miller is the author of The City, Our City, The Book of Props, and Only the Senses Sleep, and is the translator of two books from the Albanian poet Moikom Zeqo. He teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, where he edits Copper Nickel.

    “Part stark elegy where the ghosts we carry are relentlessly tied to us, part unrelenting look into today’s world of social media, loneliness, and violence, and part fierce celebration of survival, Post- is a gorgeous and complex book of poems that both startles and soothes.” —Ada Limon


    April 12, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Craig Werner and Douglas Bradley will talk about their groundbreaking book, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War. Discover how and why U.S. troops turned to music as a way of connecting to each other and the World as a way cope with the complexities of the war they had been sent to fight. Every group of Vietnam veterans―black and white, Latino and Native American, men and women, officers and "grunts" ―delivers personal reflections that drive the book's narrative. "Of the many ways to relate the story of the Vietnam war, few are more vibrant and accessible than the way Doug Bradley and Craig Werner tell it. I devoured this book."―David Maraniss

    Douglas Bradley, a Vietnam veteran, teaches a course on the war with Craig Werner, professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and author of Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul.


    April 10, 2016 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    In a special event co-sponsored by The Iowa Playwrights Workshop, visiting playwright Kia Corthron will read from and talk about The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter. This acclaimed new novel  sweeps American history from 1941 to the twenty-first century through the lives of four men: two white brothers from rural Alabama, and two black brothers from small-town Maryland, whose journey culminates in an explosive and devastating encounter between the two families. "Kia Corthron has written a magnificent, truly epic tale of the American Century . . . It deserves a place among the great American novels precisely because it cuts to the very heart of America: the color line."  —Robin D. G. Kelley

    The author of more than fifteen plays produced nationally and internationally, Corthron's awards include a Windham Campbell Prize for Drama, the Simon Great Plains Playwright Award, the USA Jane Addams Fellowship Award, and the Lee Reynolds Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women. She has also written for television, receiving a Writers Guild Outstanding Drama Series Award and an Edgar Award for The Wire. She lives in Harlem, New York.


    April 9, 2016 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Writers from the 36th issue of Earthwords, The University of Iowa’s oldest undergraduate literary magazine, will read from their new issue featuring the best in undergraduate fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, photography and art from student writers across campus. Reception to follow in the café.


    April 9, 2016 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Saul Williams, poet laureate of hip-hop, will be here to read from and discuss his work with Cedar Rapids poet Akwi Nji.  His newest collection of poetry, US(a.), is his first since The Dead Emcee Scrolls in 2006. Saul Williams is an acclaimed poet, musician, and actor. The film Slam, which he cowrote and starred in, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Camera d'Or at the Cannes
    Film Festival. He has spoken at more than 200 universities and has taught poetry/performance workshops around the world. He recently starred in the Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me.
    His books include S/HEsaid the shotgun to the head, and The Dead Emcee Scrolls. He lives in
    New York.