Live From Prairie Lights
"Live from Prairie Lights” is an internationally known readings series, which features some of the best up-and-coming and well-established authors & poets from all over the globe. Presented before a live audience and streamed over the world wide web, this long running series brings the spoken word from the bookstore to the masses. Most readings begin @ 7:00 p.m. Arrive early to assure yourself a seat.
An archive of some virtual events is here.
February 8, 2023 - 7:00pm
Please join us for a reading and conversation of the much-anticipated debut novel by DK Nnuro, What Napoleon Could Not Do. “DK Nnuro’s striking first novel offers its readers a highly nuanced portrait of how the shadow of American hegemony shapes the lives of two Ghanian siblings, one who immigrates and one who doesn’t. In Nnuro's deft hands, these particulars rise into a vision, panoramic in scope, of the global trade not in goods and services but in fantasy, desire, and regret.” —Adam Haslett
Ghanian-born author DK Nnuro is a Johns Hopkins and Writers' Workshop graduate. He has taught novel writing at the University of Iowa and is currently curator of special projects at the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
Nnuro will be joined in conversation by Writers’ Workshop alum, writer and current Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Emory University, Tameka Cage Conley.
February 10, 2023 - 4:30pm
Please join us at 4:30 at Prairie Lights with graphic novelists Joe Sacco and MariNaomi, who will meet fans and sign copies of their books in a special event sponsored by the University of Iowa Obermann Center as part of the Racial Reckoning Through Comics Mellon-Sawyer Seminar! All are welcome!
Joe Sacco is a Maltese-American comic artist known for Palestine (1993), Safe Area Gorazde (2000), Footnotes in Gaza (2009), and Paying the Land (2020) among many other award-winning works. A journalist by trade, he uses his drawing and narrative skills to provide a mosaic of testimonies that problematize mainstream narratives on genocide, political violence, migration and crimes against humanity in the Middle East, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and North America. He has won the American Book Award (1996), the Eisner Award (2001), the Eagle award and the Time magazine “Best Comic” award (2000) among many other nominations and recognitions.
MariNaomi (they/them) is the award-winning author and illustrator of Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011), Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories (2dcloud/Uncivilized Books, 2014), Turning Japanese (2dcloud, 2016), I Thought YOU Hated ME (Retrofit Comics, 2016), the Life on Earth trilogy (Graphic Universe, 2018-2020), Dirty Produce (Workman Publishing, 2021), and the upcoming collage-comics memoir I Thought You Loved Me (Fieldmouse Press, 2023). Their work has appeared in over eighty print publications and has been featured on websites such as The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, The Washington Post, LA Times, The Rumpus, LA Review of Books, Midnight Breakfast and BuzzFeed. Their comics have been translated into French (Devenir Japonaise, Editions IMHO, 2021) and Russian.
February 13, 2023 - 7:00pm
Prairie Lights Zoom
“Ho's debut work is the perfect modern example of great American fiction. It's a brilliant series of stories about the lives of two Taiwanese American women and their friendship over 20 years as they explore identity, sexuality, heartbreak and family secrets...What a great read!”—Jake Tapper
Jean Chen Ho is a Dornsife Fellow in fiction at University of Southern California. Her writing has been published in Guernica, The Rumpus, The Offing, Apogee, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, VIDA, NPR, BuzzFeed, and Bitch. She was born in Taiwan, grew up in Southern California, and lives in Los Angeles.
Angela Flournoy is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the author of Turner House, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.
February 15, 2023 - 7:00pm
Please join us with David James “D.J.” Savarese, who will read from his new book of poetry, Swoon.
“D.J. Savarese is a young poet of exhilarating originality, who writes with a clarity of mind and spirit that is remarkable for a poet of any age. The poems in Swoon span vast personal and imaginative distances—from searing glimpses of childhood abuse, to witty reports from the seasons (“February needs a root canal”), to spectacular geological odes, to the delights of an art that “makes of seeing a spiritual practice: the eye in its pew.” Savarese invites all readers— including those of us whose neurotypical senses “live alone like bachelors”—into the sometimes sea-tossed swoon of synesthesia, where the senses “lose themselves in one another’s arms.”— Lynn Powell, Season of the Second Thought
D.J. Savarese is an artful activist, multigenre writer, scholar, teacher, and practicing optimist. A 2022/23 Iowa Arts Fellow and Zoeglossia Fellow, he has also co-authored a chapbook titled Studies in Brotherly Love (2021) and authored an ekphrastic series titled A Doorknob for the Eye (2017). Co-producer, narrative commentator, and subject of the Peabody award-winning, Emmy-nominated documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery (2017) , he founded Listen2Us: Writing Our Own Futures as an Open Society Foundations Human Rights Initiative Community Youth Fellow and currently directs The Lives-in-Progress Collective.
February 17, 2023 - 7:00pm
Please join us for a special event co-sponsored by the Magid Writing Center at the University of Iowa with poets Erika Meitner and Caryl Pagel!
Erika Meitner will read from Useful Junk. “Erika Meitner’s Useful Junk is composed of poems that are tragicomic-erotic-nostalgic with a twist of existential dread and a cherry of wit on top. Meitner’s speaker is most comfortable, or most able to endure her discomfort, when she’s on the move, in airport terminals and on subway platforms, between the domestic present tense and the erotic subterfuge of memory, sex, and poetry, between selfhood and the selfie...” —Diane Seuss
Erika Meitner is the author of Ideal Cities, a 2009 National Poetry series winner; Copia; and Holy Moly Carry Me (2018 National Jewish Book Award Winner and finalist for Library of VA Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award). Meitner is professor and MFA program director of the English Department at UW-Madison.
Caryl Pagel will read from Free Clean Fill Dirt. “Caryl Pagel's Free Clean Fill Dirt manifests a rare and sustained vision for the sonic capacities of poetry to excite transformative processes in its readers. Hers is a prosodic practice that reminds us that the human body, comprised of water, is (we are) excellent conductors of sound. This collection invites us to be joyful participants in pronouncing seemingly chaotic rhyme schemes, but always within the poem’s logic...and in balance with the other formal elements of the book’s ... charms. “ - Stacy Szymaszek
Pagel is the author of Twice Told, Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death, Out of Nowhere Into Nothing (essays), and 3 chapbooks. A Writers' Workshop alum, Pagel is an associate professor at Cleveland State University, where she teaches poetry and nonfiction in the NEOMFA program. She is a publisher and editor at Rescue Press and the director of the CSU Poetry Center.
February 19, 2023 - 3:00pm
Iowa City author Cynthia Ukah will read from her memoir, A Marriage Made in Heaven.
"A Marriage Made in Heaven is the story of the powerful love between an extraordinary man and woman from vastly different worlds... Cynthia writes with emotional honesty, powerful self-awareness, and engaging humor...This inspiring book is for all of us, but especially for those who are faced with devastating loss and are searching for a life beyond tragedy.” -Bruce Hurd
Cynthia Ukah was raised in an NYC housing development and was part of a court-ordered busing program to attend white-majority schools. She earned a bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education from Howard University, where she met Nigerian born medical student Ferdinand Ukah. They married and had children, as he became a gifted transplant surgeon, working at UIHC, the IC VA Medical Center, U of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and U of South Alabama Mobile, where he started a regional transplant center. He was tragically murdered on a trip to Nigeria to oversee a transplant surgery on his father, leaving Cynthia to raise their four children.
Cynthia Ukah's children are now in college, so she devotes her time to elementary students with special needs in the IC Community School District. An active community member, she participates in church activities, and is a member of local planning boards. A Marriage Made in Heaven is her first book.
February 24, 2023 - 6:00pm
Please join us for a special reading in honor of the posthumous publication of James Alan McPherson’s On Becoming An American Writer: Essays & Nonfiction, recently published by Godine. Encompassing themes of race, education, fame, law, and America’s past and future, these essays are McPherson at his most prescient and invaluable. James Alan McPherson was the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and he was the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Paul Engle Award . His books include Crabcakes: A Memoir, A Region Not Home, Hue and Cry, and Elbow Room. In addition to an MFA , he had a law degree from Harvard. He taught for the Iowa Writers' Workshop for over 30 years.
Readers include Rachel McPherson, Writers’ Workshop Faculty James Galvin and Jamel Brinkley, NonFiction Writing Professor Emeritus, Patricia Foster, and The Director of The Writers’ Workshop, Lan Samantha Chang.
February 26, 2023 - 2:00pm
Please join us for a special Sunday afternoon event at 2pm with Mary Beth Sartor Obermeyer, who will read from her new book, When Winter Came: A Country Doctor's Journey to Fight the Flu Pandemic of 1918. Mary Beth is the grand-daughter of Dr. Pierre Sartor, a country doctor who traveled for miles across rugged rural Iowa in all weather to reach his patients, all with the help of 12 year old son Guido behind the wheel of the Model T (or at the reigns of the sleigh!). Dr. Sartor was so accomplished that he was named General Practitioner of the Year by the Iowa State Medical Society.
Obermeyer, a journalist and author of three previous books, wrote When Winter Came after uncovering Dr. Sartor’s inspiring first-person account of treating patients during the influenza pandemic of 1918. Using Dr. Sartor’s memoir, family lore, and years of research on both his life and his medical practice with the help of Mayo Clinic, which which Dr. Sartor had established a close collaboration, Mary Beth Sartor Obermeyer has created a charming and fascinating account of his remarkable life and practice, and what life was like in rural Iowa over 100 years ago.
February 27, 2023 - 6:00pm
Join NYT Bestselling author Rebecca Makkai for a live stream conversation on her new novel, I Have Some Questions For You. This special event is presented by Books & Books, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Print: A Bookstore, and Prairie Lights. Register HERE.
Rebecca Makkai’s last novel, The Great Believers, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; it was the winner of the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Clark Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and it was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times. Her other books are the novels The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, and the collection Music for Wartime—four stories from which appeared in The Best American Short Stories. A 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe and Northwestern University, and is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago.
I Have Some Questions For You is a most anticipated book from publications including Bustle, Elle, The Millions, Newsweek, NPR, Salon, Time Magazine, and USA Today. “The Secret History meets Serial…[in this] modern campus novel, in which a woman goes back to her old boarding school to teach a class on podcasting and winds up reliving—and relitigating—her own youth and the murder of a classmate.” —LitHub
March 2, 2023 - 7:00pm
Guggenheim and NEA recipient Lance Olsen will read from his new novel, Always Crashing in the Same Car.
“Always Crashing in the Same Car presents a phantasmagorical mosaic of facts and fantasies concerning the life and art of David Bowie, entirely appropriate to its subject, for whom the mask always melted into the face and vice versa. Yet the subject also demanded a meditation on memory, loss, and love; on the projection of a writer’s self through their chosen idols; on the artist’s attempt to orchestrate the manner of a life’s conclusion. All this, Lance Olsen delivers, and more.” —Jonathan Lethem
Lance Olsen is the author of more than 30 books of and on innovative writing, most recently the novels Skin Elegies and My Red Heaven. His short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, Fiction International, Village Voice, BOMB, McSweeney’s, and Best American Non-Required Reading. A Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, D.A.A.D. Artist-in-Berlin Residency, Rockefeller Center Bellagio Residency, N.E.A. Fellowship, and Pushcart Prize recipient, as well as a Fulbright Scholar, Olsen is also an Iowa Writers' Workshop alum. He teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.
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