April 28, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Tim Lawrence will read from his Disco Chronicle, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983

    "Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor is a remarkably intense piece of 'community history writing.' It breathes life into an iconic historical epoch and sociocultural scene without ever retreating into nostalgia or naive celebration. In fact, there's something unexpectedly electrifying about reading Lawrence's exceptionally well-researched historical studies. It is the sensation of remotely yet meaningfully becoming part of something hitherto only secretly known. One becomes slowly yet unequivocally aware of how that specific era's cultural and sociopolitical conditions, so thoroughly reconstructed in these works, resonate with the current sense of cultural and political impasse." —Niels Van Tomme, The Wire

    Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–1992.


    April 27, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Ed Pavlic will talk about the importance of black music to the politics of James Baldwin's life and work as he discusses his book, Who Can Afford to Improvise? James Baldwin and Black Music.

    Ed Pavlic is author of seven collections of poems and two critical books. He is most recently the author of Lyric and the Listener, Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno, and Visiting Hours at the Color Line. He lives in Athens, GA and teaches in the PhD Program in Creative Writing/English at the University of Georgia.

    "Who Can Afford to Improvise is a tour de force from one of our premier Baldwin scholars. Ed Pavlic's brilliantly insightful meditation on black music and culture and Baldwin's centrality to that tradition is a must-read." —Peniel E. Joseph



    April 26, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Merriam-Webster lexicographer and rock star among word mavens Kory Stamper will talk about Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries.  With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography, from the agonizing decisions about what to define and how to do it, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define, how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. And along the way, she reveals little-known surprises--for example, the fact that "OMG" was first used in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917.

    Kory Stamper has her own Facebook Fan Club and an Ask The Editor video series. “As a writer, Kory Stamper can do anything with words: define them, split them, lump them, agglute them, and make them work for her every bit as ferociously and precisely as she works for them in her day job as a far from mild-mannered lexicographer at Merriam-Webster. You will never take a dictionary entry for granted again.” —Mary Norris


    April 25, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Brian Harrison will talk about his new book Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights.

    Listen, We Need to Talk tests a new theory, what Brian Harrison and Melissa Michelson call The Theory of Dissonant Identity Priming, about how to change people's attitudes on controversial topics. Harrison and Michelson conducted randomized experiments all over the United States, many in partnership with equality organizations. They found that people are often willing to change their attitudes about LGBT rights when they find out that others with whom they share an identity (for example, as sports fans or members of a religious group) are also supporters of those rights-particularly when told about support from a leader of the group, and particularly if they find the information somewhat surprising.

    Fans of the Green Bay Packers football team were influenced by hearing that a Packers Hall-of-Famer is a supporter of LGBT rights. African Americans were influenced by hearing that the Black president of the United States is a supporter. Religious individuals were influenced by hearing that a religious leader is a supporter. And strong partisans were influenced by hearing that a leader of their party is a supporter. Through a series of engaging experiments and compelling evidence, Listen, We Need to Talk provides a blueprint for thinking about how to bring disparate groups together over contentious political issues.

    Brian F. Harrison is Lecturer in Political Science at Northwestern University.


    April 24, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Bestselling author Stephanie Danler will read from her novel, Sweetbitter. Bon Appétit says, “This dynamite book is filled with the heart-wrenching indignities of self-discovery, and gives a gritty, inside look to the fast-paced, drug-filled, whirlwind scene of restaurant life.”  Stephanie Danler worked in NYC for over seven years for fine restaurants such as Union Square Cafe and Tía Pol where she gained the experience  that allowed her to deftly conjure the nonstop and high-adrenaline world of the food industry. “Danler’s sexy, astute debut is really a love story about the addictive pull of restaurant life. Anyone who’s ever tied on an apron will think, Finally, someone wrote a book about us. And nailed it.” —People Magazine

    Danler earned an MFA from the New School, and has recently relocated to her native Los Angeles.

    “Brilliantly written Sweetbitter is the Kitchen Confidential of our time.” —Gabrielle Hamilton, author of Blood, Bones & Butter



    April 23, 2017 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Peter Frase will read from Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring society as we know it tumbling down. In Four Futures, Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail.

    Frase is an editor at Jacobin magazine, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, and has written for In These Times and Al Jazeera. He lives in New York City.

    “(Four Futures is a)  remarkably clear-eyed view of the futures we’re facing, bringing humor and intelligence to the lab of speculative fiction to create four smart and sharply lit early warning signals.” —Warren Ellis



    April 21, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    U of I Press author Brandi Janssen will read from Making Local Food Work. Making Local Food Work is an ideal introduction to what local food means today and what it might be tomorrow. By listening to and working alongside people trying to build a local food system in Iowa, Janssen uncovers the complex realities of making it work. She asks how Iowa's small farmers and CSA owners deal with farmers' market regulations, neighbors who spray pesticides on crops or lawns, and sanitary regulations on meat processing and milk production.

    Brandi Janssen is a researcher and advocate for local food systems, and is currently a clinical assistant professor in the department of occupational and environmental health at the University of Iowa, and the director of Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH). She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.


    April 20, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Poets Henry Israeli, Christopher Kempf and Allison Benis White will read from their new collections.

    Henry Israeli will read from God’s Breath Hovering Across the Waters. These meditative poems struggle to make sense of a mother s sudden death through the lenses of science and religion. Memories, history, war, science, space exploration, and the RCA dog are just some of the subjects that expand and contract, intersect and repel, throughout the arc of the collection.

    Henry Israeli’s previous poetry collections include New Messiahs,  and Praying to the Black Cat, and three books of translations of Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku. He is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the founder and editor of Saturnalia Books.

    Christopher Kempf will read from Late in the Empire of Men,  a timely collection that traces the path of America through its expanding empire to a future when "the idea of people/is over.”  Kempf is a master of seamless juxtaposition: almost every poem moves smoothly into and out of its immediate circumstances, weaving myth and history, literary reference and new events into its fabric. Kempf has published poetry in Best New Poets, Gettysburg Review, The New Republic, and Ploughshares. He is an NEA and Wallace Stegner Fellowship recipient and is the 2016/2017 Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College.  

    Allison Benis White will read from Please Bury Me In This, a series of letters on the death of the speaker’s father that investigate loss, and language’s limits and ability to transcend our temporal lives. This book’s further concern is with the intergenerational trauma of the children of Holocaust survivors. Allison Benis White  is the author of Small Porcelain Head, selected by Claudia Rankine for the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry. Her first book, Self-Portrait with Crayon, received the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Book Prize. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Riverside.



    April 19, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    In Trouble Again: A Journey Between Orinoco and the Amazon 
    by Redmond O’Hanlon

    To undertake a four-month journey into the bug-ridden rain forest between the Orinoco and the Amazon requires courage and a certain amount of madness. To write about it as Redmond O'Hanlon does requires a scientist's precision, a streak of poetry, and a robust sense of the absurd, which is exactly what O'Hanlon, the author of Into the Heart of Borneo, brings to his latest book. At once funny and genuinely terrifying, In Trouble Again takes us into a heart of darkness infested with jaguars, assassin bugs, and piranha, a place where men are driven to murder over a bottle of ketchup, and where the locals—the elusive Yanomami Indians—may be the most violent people on earth.


    April 18, 2017 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights

    Gozo Yoshimasu will read with three of the translators of Alice Iris Red Horse. Gozo Yoshimasu is one of the most influential contemporary Japanese poets, and the winner of several major prizes, including the 50th Mainichi Art Award for Poetry, the Rekitei Prize, the Purple Ribbon Medal, and the Order of the Rising Sun. He was a participant in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 1971 and 1987.