Iowa City Book Festival 2021 Takes Hybrid Format

Iowa City Book Festival offers readings, film screenings, exhibits, and more, late October and throughout the fall

IOWA CITY – The 13th annual Iowa City Book Festival, which will be held Oct. 18-24, will feature a mix of in-person and online events that blend original programming and partnerships with co-presenters to celebrate the written word. Several events focus on authors with ties to the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, while others highlight issues related to immigration.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, in-person events produced by the festival will require masks and will have limited, spaced seating. Partner events may have other restrictions. Programs will be streamed live online and recorded for later viewing as well. This year’s festival partners include the One Community One Book program, The Examined Life Conference, FilmScene, Riverside Theatre, The University of Iowa Libraries, and more. The festival is supported by the City of Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

The festival website,, is the place to find the most up-to-date information about events. In addition, the festival will take advantage of opportunities to present readings and discussions throughout the fall.

The first book event of the festival is a joint poetry reading by Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates Julie Hanson and Marc Rahe at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library. Hanson is the author of Unbeknownst, an Iowa Poetry Prize winner, and the new The Audible and the Evident. Rahe’s latest collection is Gravity Well from Iowa City-based Rescue Press.

The Book Festival partners with the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program for an event with poets and translators Habib Tengour and Pierre Joris on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m., in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library. Fall 2021 IWP participant Tengour, from Algeria, has published more than 20 volumes of writing, including the recent poetry collection, La Sandale d’Empédocle. He will be joined by Joris, a prolific poet and translator, whose most recent works are Fox-trails, -tales, & -trots: Poems & Proses, and Memory Rose into Threshold Speech, which gathers the poet Paul Celan’s first four books and completes Joris’s project to translate all of Celan’s work from German into English. Joris and Tengour are also the co-editors of vol. 4 of the Poems for the Millennium anthology series, The University of California Book of North African Literature (2013).

On Thursday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., the One Community One Book project from the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights will present author Reuben Jonathan Miller, who will speak about Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Aftermath of Incarceration. Miller’s presentation will be a virtual event, and details about how to access the stream will be shared closer to the date.

Also at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 21 is the featured presentation of The Examined Life Conference from the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Authors Gina Frangello and Emily Rapp Black will be in conversation with Cate Dicharry discussing their new books, Blow Your House Down and Sanctuary and Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg, focusing on the intersection of our stories and bodies.

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On Friday, Oct. 22, participants in the International Writing Program will hold a noon panel discussion in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library.

Saturday, Oct. 23, is the festival’s busiest day, with a mix of in-person and virtual events. Things begin at 11:30 a.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library with a reading and presentation by award-winning Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Gregory Galloway. His third novel, Just Thieves, is a classic noir that follows recovering addicts and accomplished house thieves Rick and Frank, whose latest job is easy… perhaps too easy.

Kristy Nabhan-Warren follows at 1 p.m. in Meeting Room A, where she will discuss her latest book, Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland. Nabhan-Warren, the V. O. and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Chair of Catholic Studies and a professor in the departments of religious studies and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies at the UI, spent years interviewing Iowans who work in the meatpacking industry, both native-born residents and recent migrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In Meatpacking America, she digs deep below the stereotype and reveals the grit and grace of a heartland that is a major global hub of migration and food production.

The topic of migration continues at 2:30 p.m. in Meeting Room A with Chuy Renteria, who will discuss his debut book, We Heard It When We Were Young. In this book from University of Iowa Press, Renteria tells the story of a young boy, first-generation Mexican American, who is torn between cultures: between immigrant parents trying to acclimate to midwestern life and a town that was, by turns, supportive and disturbingly antagonistic.

Also at 2:30 p.m. is a presentation by author Laura Gellott, professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (Kenosha), who will discuss her new book, Helen Perry Curtis and the European Trip of a Lifetime. Gellott was inspired to a lifetime of teaching and European travel by Curtis’s 1937 book Jean & Company, Unlimited. She located Curtis’s three granddaughters, and the meeting resulted in the publication of Gellott’s book, which traces Curtis’s life from its Nebraska roots to New Jersey and New York and across the European continent in the 1930s. Gellott will be in Shambaugh Auditorium in the University of Iowa Main Library.

The final author event on Saturday is a virtual presentation at 4 p.m. by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who will discuss her book, Not a Nation of Immigrants. Dunbar-Ortiz is the winner of the 2017 Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize, and is the author or editor of many books, including An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, a recipient of the 2015 American Book Award.

Saturday also features the “Reading Through the Roarin’ 20s” open house in the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives Reading Room. From 1-4 p.m. See rare and unique materials not just from the 1920s, but also the 1820s, 1720s, 1620s and so on. During this open house-style event, all are invited to explore centuries of book history and innovation through this fun lens.

Two more author events are scheduled for Sunday, October 24. Iowa Poet Laureate Debra Marquart will be joined by Iowa City West High student Shreya Khullar, Iowa’s first Student Poet Ambassador, to read from and discuss their work. Marquart, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts & Sciences at Iowa State University, will talk about her latest book, The Night We Landed on the Moon: Essays Between Exile & Belonging, as well as her poetry. Khullar is an editor for Polyphony Lit, an international student-run magazine, and her writing is published, or is forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Press, Polyphony Lit, Hypernova Lit, and more.

The final author event of the festival features Fiona Sampson, author of 28 books of poetry and nonfiction, including the critically acclaimed In Search of Mary Shelley. In this virtual event at 2:30 p.m., Sampson will discuss Two-Way Mirror: The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the first biography of the 19th century writer and feminist icon.

Other festival programming revolves around the latest in a series of community reading projects led by Dr. Anna Barker on behalf of the City of Literature. Participants from around the world are currently reading and discussing Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov together. In addition, Dr. Barker will lead guided tours of her curated exhibit, “From Revolutionary Outcast to a Man of God: Dostoevsky at 200,” Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23 at 4 p.m. at the University of Iowa Main Library Gallery. Programming partners FilmScene and Riverside Theatre will offer related events.

A series of films will be screened at FilmScene during the festival. These include the 1958 adaptation of “The Brothers Karamazov” at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17; “La Chinoise” at 7 p.m., on Monday, Oct. 18; “The Double” at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19; and “White Nights” from 1957 at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24. All will be screened at The Chauncey location. More information at

Riverside Theatre will stage a unique performance of “The Grand Inquisitor,” a play adapted from a chapter of The Brothers Karamazov, in the UI Main Library Gallery. The play features John William Watkins along with designs by Chris Rich, Jenny Nutting Kelchen, and Bri Atwood. Riverside co-founder Ron Clark directs. This is the Iowa premiere of this play. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21-23, and 28-30, and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 24 and 31. The performance is free to the public, with reservations strongly recommended. Seats may be reserved at

For the most up-to-date information about festival events, including links for all virtual programs, please visit the festival website at: Additional events will be announced on the website. For additional information, follow us on Facebook at:, or Twitter at:

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