• Luis Alberto Urrea in conversation with Michael Chibnik: An NEA Big Read Event

    June 16, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a virtual reading and discssion with Luis Alberto Urrea of his book, Into the Beautiful North as a part of the NEA Big Read Series. The conversation will be moderated by Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa, Michael Chibnik.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    The NEA Big Read Program aims to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the jou of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation about discovery.

    National Public Radio hailed Luis Alberto Urrea as a "literary badass" and "master storyteller with a rock and roll heart." The Denver Press says, “Urrea uses a breathtaking Mexican magical realism to construct a shimmering portrait of the United States.”

    Luis Alberto Urrea is a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame and a best-selling author of 17 books. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.” Into the Beautiful North, his 2009 a novel, has been chosen by more than 50 different cities and colleges as a community read. The Devil’s Highway, Urrea’s 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. The Hummingbird’s Daughter, his 2005 historical novel, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction. His newest book, The House of Broken Angels, is a novel of an American family, which happens to be from Mexico. Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

    He will be joined in conversation by Michael Chibnik, Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa. He was the guest curator of a large exhibit of Oaxacan wood carvings at the University of Iowa Museum of Art in 2005 and 2006. His most recent book, Scholarship, Money, and Prose: Behind the Scenes at an Academic Journal was published in 2020 by University of Pennsylvania Press.

  • IN THE HEIGHTS Virtual Book Launch

    June 15, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Penguin Random House - Virtual Event

    SPECIAL ONE NIGHT ONLY VIRTUAL BOOK LAUNCH EVENT with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Jeremy McCarter!

    To join this event, get your tickets here.

    Lights up on Washington Heights!

    Before Hamilton became a global phenomenon, before Lin-Manuel Miranda became a household name, a little show called In the Heights shook up Broadway with its hip-hop and salsa soundtrack and big, bilingual heart. In the new book In the Heights: Finding Home, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Jeremy McCarter tell the story of the show’s humble beginnings, from rehearsals in a bookstore basement to the Broadway smash (and soon-to-be feature film!) that created an unbreakable community and a new kind of family for everyone involved.

    Join Miranda, Hudes, and McCarter for a very special In the Heights Virtual Book Launch on Tuesday, June 15 from 7:00 - 8:00pm CT ( 8:00 to 9:00pm ET) on Zoom. Sure to be an unforgettable conversation on creativity, community, and finding home, this is your chance to hear directly from the creative team behind the timeless story of how one neighborhood—Washington Heights—can speak to the world. Special guest moderator for this event will be award-winning actor, director and producer America Ferrera, who joined the authors in narrating the upcoming audiobook.

    A $40 ticket includes admission to this exclusive online event and a hardcover copy of In the Heights: Finding Home , available for pick up on or after June 15th at Prairie Lights Books 15 S. Dubuque St. Iowa City, IA 52240.

    A $45 ticket includes admission to this exclusive online event and a hardcover copy of In the Heights: Finding Home to be shipped via media mail within the continental US. Books will be shipped after June 15th. For shipping the book outside of the continental US, you must contact the store to make arrangements.

    We can’t wait to see you there!

  • Paul Mendez in conversation with Brandon Taylor

    June 14, 2021 - 6:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading and conversation with Paul Mendez to celebrate the release of his debut novel, Rainbow Milk. He will be joined in conversation by Brandon Taylor.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings calls the book, “The kind of novel you never knew you were waiting for." Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other, says, "When did you last read a novel about a young, black, gay, Jehovah's Witness man from Wolverhampton who flees his community to make his way in London as a prostitute? This might be a debut, but Mendez is an exciting, accomplished, and daring storyteller with a great ear for dialogue. Graphic erotica alert! Don't read this book if you like your fiction cozy and middle-of-the-road."

    Paul Mendez was born and raised in the Black Country. He now lives in London and is studying for an M.A. in Black British Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been a performing member of two theatre companies, and worked as a voice actor, appearing on audiobooks by Andrea Levy, Paul Theroux and Ben Okri, most recently recording Ian Wright's A Life in Football for Hachette Audio. As a writer, he has contributed to the Times Literary Supplement and the Brixton Review of BooksRainbow Milk is his debut novel.

    Brandon Taylor is the author of the novel Real Life, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His work has appeared in Guernica, American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, Buzzfeed Reader, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gay Mag, The New Yorker online, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. He is the senior editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Lit Hub. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow. His story collection, Filthy Animals, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books in June 2021.


  • IWP Summer Institute

    June 13, 2021 - 8:00am

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Join IWP Summer Institute mentors, Anam Zakaria, Chandrahas Choudhury, and Dini Parayitam as they read from their best works. The event will be moderated by the IWP's Esther Okonkwo.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Anam Zakaria is the author 1971: A People's History from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India (2019), Between the Great Divide: A Journey into Pakistan-administered Kashmir (2018) and The Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians (2015), which won her the 2017 KLF-German Peace Prize. 

    Chandrahas Choudhury is the author of three novels: Clouds (2019), Days of My China Dragon (2019), and Arzee the Dwarf (2013), and the editor of India: A Traveler's Literary Companion (2010). He has written essays, reportage, and literary criticism for the Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, the Washington Post, and Mint, and lectures widely on writing, and the Indian novel.  

    Dini Parayitam has an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa’s Writers' Workshop. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, Boston Review and BOMB Magazine, among other places. She was an Emerging Writing Fellow at Yale-NUS College (Singapore) and a KALAKARS (NYC) Fellow for Scriptwriting. She is working on her debut novel in Austin, Texas.

  • Begin with a Bee

    June 12, 2021 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a special afternoon event with authors Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Liza Ketchum, and Phyllis Root, and illustrator Claudia McGehee, who will talk about their new book, Begin with a Bee

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    By looking closely at the life cycle of one bee, Begin with a Bee helps readers of all ages understand and appreciate the contributions and significance of all bees.  Award-winning children's books authors Martin, Ketchum, and Root will read from the book, which imparts the poetry and basic science of the rusty-patched bumblebee, and talk about the collaborative process of the book's creation. Illustrator McGehee will talk about her illustrations, which depict close-ups of these endangered pollinators, as well as her trademark stunning landscapes.

    Claudia McGehee is author and/or illustrator of eight award-winning picture books. She works in scratchboard, a unique medium that celebrates nature and story with lively, woodcut-like lines. Her titles include the historical fiction My Wilderness, an Alaskan Adventure, North Woods Girl  by Aimee Bissonette, A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet,  and  Creekfinding: A True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. 

    Jacqueline Briggs Martin is author of twenty-one picture books for children, including Snowflake Bentley, a Caldecott medal winner in 1999. Her books Creekfinding: A True Story, which received a Green Earth Award for Environmental Writing for Children and a Riverby Award for exceptional natural history books for young readers, and Bim, Bam, Bop . . . and Oona are published by University of Minnesota Press.

    Liza Ketchum is the author of seventeen books for young people, including  The Life Fantastic. A founding faculty member at Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program, her books have appeared on the ALA's Best Book lists and the New York Public Library's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing. A citizen scientist volunteer who writes often about the natural world, Liza's garden memoir,  The Last Garden, also celebrates bees and other pollinators.

    Phyllis Root has written more than fifty books for children, including, also from the University of Minnesota Press, Big Belching BogPlant a Pocket of PrairieOne North Star, and The Lost Forest, which won a National Outdoor Book Award. She has twice won the Riverby Award. She has also written Searching for Minnesota's Native Wildflowers: A Guide for Beginners, Botanists, and Everyone in Between (Minnesota, 2018).

  • Melissa Ginsburg in conversation with Alexander Chee

    June 11, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading with Melissa Ginsburg to celebrate the release of The House UptownShe will be joined in conversation by Alexander Chee.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Jonathan Lethem says of The House Uptown, "Melissa Ginsburg's page-turner is a devastatingly simple trap: characters so beguiling you settle in for a charming coming-of-age fable before realizing the spring is snapping shut on an inexorable and satisfying calamity. The theme is the-past-isn't-dead-it-isn't-even-past, but painted not with Faulkner's heavy hand so much as with the crisp ingenuity of Ross Macdonald."

    Melissa Ginsburg is the author of the novels The House Uptown and Sunset City, the poetry collection Dear Weather Ghost, and two poetry chapbooks, Arbor and Double Blind. A second poetry collection, Doll Apollo, will be published in 2022 by LSU Press, and the poetry chapbook Apollo is forthcoming in June from Condensery Press. Her poems have appeared in the New YorkerGuernicaKenyon ReviewFenceSouthwest Review, and other magazines. Originally from Houston, Texas, Melissa studied poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Mississippi. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with two dogs, eleven chickens, and the writer Chris Offutt.

    Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, all from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, T Magazine, The Sewaneee Review, The Yale Review, and Guernica, among others, and anthologized in the 2016 and 2019 Best American Essays. He is winner of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose, and a 2021 US Artists Fellowship, as well as the Randy Shilts Prize in gay nonfiction, the Paul Engle Prize, the 2018 One Story Magazine’s Mentor of the Year Award, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. He is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.

  • Aviya Kushner in conversation with Dora Malech

    June 3, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading with Aviya Kushner to celebrate the release of Wolf Lamb Bomb, and conversation with poet Dora Malech.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Aviya Kushner's debut poetry collection, Wolf Lamb Bomb, revives and reimagines the Book of Isaiah in an intimate conversation between woman and prophet. In the aftermath of September 11th, ongoing violence in the Middle East, and resurgent antisemitism, Kushner reflects on a Biblical understanding of humanity and justice. Wolf Lamb Bomb wonders equally about our relationship with an inherited past and our desire to understand the precarious present. These poems place the prophet Isaiah in the position of poet, crooner, and rival as they search for a guide in poetry and in life.

    Christopher Merrill, poet and Director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, says of the book, " "In the imagined life," Aviya Kushner writes in her first collection of poems, Wolf Lamb Bomb, "the next step is always / a problem." Guided by her reverence for the poetry of the Prophet Isaiah, Kushner steps gingerly toward the problems of contemporary existence—which are, of course, but variations on the themes of faith and freedom, heartbreak and healing, that have inspired poets from time immemorial. "In my body," she writes, "I carry clarity and crime and the harp." Hear her!"

    Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is the author of The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible (Spiegel & Grau / Penguin Random House), which was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist, a Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Finalist, and one of Publishers Weekly‘s Top 10 Religion Stories of the year, as well as the poetry chapbook Eve and All the Wrong Men (Dancing Girl Press, 2019). Kushner is The Forward‘s language columnist, and previously wrote a travel column for The International Jerusalem Post. She is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, a founding faculty member at the Randolph College MFA program, and a member of The Third Coast Translators Collective. Her work has been supported by the Howard Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.

    She will be joined in conversation by Dora Malech, whose most recent book of poetry is Flourish, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2020. Tupelo Press published her chapbook Time Trying in Four Quartets: Poetry in the Pandemic in 2020 as well. Her poems have appeared numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, Poetry London, and The Best American Poetry, and her honors include an Amy Clampitt Residency Award, a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, and a Writing Residency Fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. She lives in Baltimore and teaches in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

  • Afrofuturism as Expression: Literature, Dance, and Black Abstraction

    June 3, 2021 - 7:00pm

    University of Iowa Stanley Museum - Virtual

    Afrofuturism is an invitation into the portals of Black possibilities within familiar and unfamiliar realms. Join the University of Iowa Stanley Museum for a conversation moderated by Stanley Associate Writer & Collections/Exhibitions Associate Derek (DK) Nnuro on the expressions of those possibilities in literature and dance, and a work of Black abstract art from the collection. Q&A to follow.

    To join this virtual event, follow this link.

    Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer, Caine Prize finalist, and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her award-winning work has garnered fellowships from MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, Ucross, Byrdcliffe, Kimbilio, Hub City Writers, the Stadler Center for Poetry, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Clarion West Writers Workshop. Nana serves as Assistant Professor of English at the University of Alabama. She teaches creative writing courses that explore her eclectic literary interests: ranging from graphic novels to medical humanities on to exploring works by female authors in genres such as horror, afrofuturism, and mystery. Nana’s writing has been published in journals and magazines such as Brittle Paper, New Orleans Review, and The Baffler, amongst others. Her short story collection, Walking on Cowrie Shells, is forthcoming from Graywolf on June 1, 2021.

    André M. Zachery is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist of Haitian and African American descent, and is a scholar, researcher and technologist with a BFA from Ailey/Fordham University and MFA in Performance & Interactive Media Arts from CUNY/Brooklyn College. As the artistic director of Renegade Performance Group his practice, research and community engagement artistically focuses on merging of choreography, technology and Black cultural practices through multimedia work. André is a 2016 New York Foundation for the Arts Gregory Millard Fellow in Choreography and 2019 Jerome Hill Foundation Fellow in Choreography. André's works through RPG have been presented domestically and internationally, receiving support through several residencies, awards, and commissions. As a technologist he has collaborated with various artists through RPG, the design team of 3LD Art & Technology Center, and The Clever Agency. André has worked on major projects across artistic mediums as a choreographer, media designer and consultant.

    Deborah Goffe is a dance maker, performer, educator, and performance curator who cultivates environments and experiences through choreographic, design and social processes.Since its founding in 2002, Scapegoat Garden (a Connecticut-based creative engine)has functioned as her primary vehicle for artistic and curatorial practice—a means to forge relationships between artists and communities, helping people see, create and contribute to a greater vision of ourselves, each other, and the places we call home. Deborah’s performance works have been presented in performance festivals and venues throughout the northeast United States, including: New England’s Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University, Wadsworth Atheneum, International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, Provincetown Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival in Maine, Boston Center for the Arts; New York City’s New York Live Arts, Artists of Tomorrow Theatre Festival, and the 92nd Street Y. Her work has also been presented in Finland, Italy, and Cape Verde. Deborah is driven by an enduring commitment to support of vibrant local dance ecologies, and the role of curatorial practice in that process. Together these commitments inform her work and teaching at Hampshire College (Amherst, MA) where she serves as Associate Professor of Dance and Performance Curation.

  • Elizabeth Letts in conversation with Gabrielle Glaser

    June 2, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading with Elizabeth Letts to celebrate the release of her new book, The Ride of her Life:The True Story of Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across AmericaShe will be joined in conversation by Gabrielle Glaser.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Publisher's Weekly says of the book, “Letts inspires in this miraculous true story of one woman’s trek from Maine to California on horseback…[her] attention to detail and clear admiration of her ‘funny, quirky, and bold’ subject light up the narrative and make it hard to put down. The Ride of Her Life has it all: bravery, determination, and a whole lot of heart.”

    Elizabeth Letts is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse, which won the 2017 PEN Center USA Literary Award for research nonfiction, as well as the novel Finding Dorothy. Her most recent book is called The Ride of her Life:The True Story of Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America. A lifelong horsewoman, she lives in Southern California and Northern Michigan.

    Gabrielle Glaser is the author, most recently, of American BabyA Mother, A Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption, which was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review and CBS Sunday Morning. Gabrielle's 2013 book examining women's drinking and the American rehab industry, Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink -- And How They Can Regain Control was a New York Times  bestseller. She has covered the intersection of health, medicine, and culture for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and many other publications, including The Daily BeastThe Washington Post, and Scientific American. She is the mother of three grown daughters.

  • Chuy Renteria in conversation with Michael Chibnik: An NEA Big Read Event

    May 27, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us, with the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa for a virtual reading and discussion with Chuy Renteria of his forthcoming book, We Heard it When We Were Young, from University of Iowa Press about Latinx immigrant experiences of himself and others in West Liberty, Iowa. The conversation will be moderated by Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa, Michael Chibnik.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    The discussion is part of the NEA Big Read Program which broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation about discovery.

    Jennifer Colville, author, Elegies for Uncanny Girls, says of the book, “Chuy Renteria writes what no one else can. He writes as a b-boy, a first-generation Mexican American, a small-town Iowan, a friend, a son, and a brother. The result is part bildungsroman and part unique socio-cultural exploration. His writing is fascinating, moving, and full of kinetic style.”

    Chuy Renteria, a b-boy since the age of fourteen, is a central figure in the Iowa dance scene, and is also the public engagement coordinator for Hancher Auditorium. Renteria’s stories have been published in We the Interwoven. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

    He will be joined in conversation by Michael Chibnik, Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa. He was the guest curator of a large exhibit of Oaxacan wood carvings at the University of Iowa Museum of Art in 2005 and 2006. His most recent book, Scholarship, Money, and Prose: Behind the Scenes at an Academic Journal was published in 2020 by University of Pennsylvania Press.