Canceled: Dylan scholar Michael Gray to speak April 14

NOTE: This event has been canceled.

Michael Gray, a pioneer in the study of the work of Bob Dylan, will present “Bob Dylan, Literature, and the Poetry of the Blues” at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library. The event, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature’s Iowa City Book Festival, is free and open to the public, and marks Gray’s first visit to Iowa and a rare appearance in the U.S.

Gray pioneered the serious study of Bob Dylan’s work with, Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, in 1972, the first such critical book. Born in 1946, he grew up on Merseyside, England, and studied History and English Literature at York University, where he chatted with visiting performer Jimi Hendrix. His books include the massively updated Song & Dance Man III (2000), The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (2006), Hand Me My Travelin Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell (2009), and the new Outtakes On Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021. The 750,000-word Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, produced single-handedly by Gray, is still in frequent use in colleges and libraries on both sides of the Atlantic.

Gray’s lectures are lively and spontaneous, witty and acute, and offer a thoroughly entertaining, fresh account of music and Dylan’s achievement.

Statement on Book Challenges in Iowa

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature affirms the right of educators and librarians to make materials available to students, and the right of those students to access materials that share differing perspectives, experiences and ways of life. It also is important for students to see themselves represented, to know that no matter their circumstances, they are not alone. Doing so will make our state a more open, tolerant, and accepting place. We urge lawmakers to reject any attempts to limit this access, and urge their constituents to stand with us in this effort. This aligns with our organization’s mission to build and support diverse communities of writers and audiences through the transformative power of story. Stories that show the world from diverse points of view can help to build empathy that allows us to better understand and celebrate others.

Anna Barker’s next reading project:
10 Days of Balzac’s Colonel Chabert

The Charging Chasseur, or An Officer of the Imperial Horse Guards Charging, 1812, by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824)

After two years of leading community reading projects around The Decameron, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Paradise Lost, War and Peace, and The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Barker has turned her sights to France.”

Get your French berets and baguettes!” she says. “We are off to the land of post-Napoleonic societal collapse, greed, avarice, moral decay and spiritual degradation. FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR! By the end of 2022 you will be begging for lofty skies, luminous eyes, Tolstoy – AND Anna Karenina, which we will tackle in the spring of 2023!

But before we read Tolstoy’s most European novel – we need to engage with a few European novels and acquaint ourselves with Tolstoy’s predecessors!”

This year of French stories begins March 1 with a short novella by Honore de Balzac, Colonel Chabert. Barker will lead “10 Days of Balzac’s Colonel Chabert” from March 1-10. Join the conversation on the Facebook group. Anna will post preliminary notes from March 1-7, with the reading of this short work scheduled for March 8-10.

There is no preferred translation for the book. The Carol Cosman translation is available locally in Iowa City through Prairie Lights Books. The reading will close with a Zoom talk with Anna on March 10.

From there, Anna will lead readers through Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (Spring 2022), Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo (Summer 2022), Hugo’s Les Misérables (Fall 2022), and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (Winter 2023).


Student Writers to be honored at
One Book Two Book Festival

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization’s annual One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival will offer outdoor fun for the entire family while also recognizing creative excellence of several area students, Feb. 26-27.

Activities for this year’s festival will be held in person, both outside and inside, on Saturday, Feb. 26. In addition, a special video presentation, “Write Out Loud,” will be shown on Sunday, Feb. 27, featuring the grade-level winners in the One Book Two Book writing competition. Visit for a full schedule.

Saturday events include story times at the Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty libraries, activities at Sidekick Books, and several fun programs on the downtown Iowa City Pedestrian Mall in and around the pop-up shops in Blackhawk Mini Park at the intersection of Dubuque and Washington streets. This will include a visit by book characters Clifford the Big Red Dog, Taco Dragon, Zoom Squirrel, and a Wild Thing. Players from the Iowa Heartlanders Ice Hockey Team – and Dash, their mascot — will be on hand for fun activities. Attendees are invited to donate used books to a festival book drive run in conjunction with the Iowa Heartlanders and Miss Iowa, Grace Lynn Keller, who is touring the state as part of her mission to advocate for children’s literacy. Books will be collected at the Pedestrian Mall location. 

In addition, children can sign up for free workshops. An illustration workshop with Jennifer Black Reinhardt for those ages 9-12 will be held at 2 p.m. at Sidekick Books. Participants will draw their own character and create their own “picture book page turn.” Registration is required. The annual Jr. High Writing Jam with the Iowa Youth Writing Project will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27, at the Iowa City Public Library. This year’s guest author is Chuy Renteria. Registration is required. Visit for more information about how to register for each of these opportunities.

For the writing portion of the festival, students in grades 1 through 8 in Corridor districts were encouraged to submit one page of original writing. These pieces can be stories, poems, song lyrics, graphic novel pages or anything else the students can envision. Those submissions were evaluated by a team at ACT in Iowa City. Grade-level winners were selected in two categories. They are:

  • The Write Stuff, which is judged based on language, clarity, structure, and emotional impact.
  • From the Heart, judged based on creativity, passion, and expressiveness.

These winning students are:
















In addition, the ACT team identified students in each grade whose writing was deemed worthy of honorable mention:

Jasper Hwang, 2, Willowwind
April Xu, 3, Wickham
Alice Gravert, 4, Lemme
Abigail Chen, 4, Wickham
Harriet Wrage, 4, Wilkins Elementary (Marion)
Oceana Zhang, 4, Wickham
Evelyn Ingersoll, 5, Lincoln
Edison Wolterman, 5, Nixon Elementary (Hiawatha)
Phoebe Smart, 5, Penn
Evan Otto Helmke, 6, Willowwind
Ben Sauder, 6, Willowwind
Erin Chen, 7, Northwest
Alma Bhandary-Narayanan, 8, South East
Grace Baker, 8, West Branch Middle School
Briley Kaalberg, 8, West Branch Middle School

The winning submissions can be viewed on the One Book Two Book website,

Creative Cities Network grows by 49; 3 new Cities of Literature designated

UNESCO on Monday announced the designation of 49 new cities to join its Creative Cities Network making for a total of 295 Creative Cities from 90 countries worldwide.

Among these new Creative Cities, three have been designated as Creative Cities of Literature: Gothenburg, Sweden; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Vilnius, Lithuania. There are now 42 designated Creative Cities of Literature from 31 countries across the globe. The UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature extend a warm welcome to their new sibling Cities and look forward to collaborating to promote the power of literature for sustainable and inclusive societies.

“We warmly welcome our colleagues in the newly designated Creative Cities of Literature,” said John Kenyon, executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and coordinator for the Cities of Literature. “We look forward to working with our new partners as we promote our values, including the need to celebrate and protect freedom of speech and expression. As our network diversifies, adding new cultural perspectives, new languages, and new stories, we strengthen the base from which we do that work.”

No new cities were added from the United States. UNESCO rules dictate that applying cities must be from a country that is a member of UNESCO. The United States is not currently a member, having left in 2018. There are nine U.S. members of the Creative Cities Network, including Iowa City.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created by UNESCO in 2004 and gathers Cities that have positioned culture and creativity as strategic enablers for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Network recognizes Cities from the seven creative fields of Craft and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. Designated Creative Cities place creativity at the core of their development to enhance inclusivity, safety, and sustainability.

Click “Read More” to view the list of cities.