Iowa City Book Festival beginning its latest chapter this week

The Iowa City Book Festival is back, this year with one of the most exciting lineups yet.


David Harmantas

Prairie Lights bookstore on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

Writing can be a powerful tool. It has been the “weapon” for countless great authors, poets, and other artists of current time. Writing can be used to change fate, sway the masses, and create significant change.

Today marks the start of the Iowa City Book Festival, a weeklong event in which renowned authors, both international and local, will travel to Iowa City to receive awards, give readings, and hold workshops or other events.

The festival was started in 2009 by local libraries to celebrate Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature.

UNESCO designates cities for different disciplines around the world. Iowa City was the third City of Literature and the first one in the United States.

This is the 10th anniversary of the festival. John Kenyon, the director of the local City of Literature organization, said he hopes to top all the years before in celebration of the special milestone.

“We’re just trying to put together a lineup that’s going to appeal to as many people as possible,” he said.

This year is possibly the festival’s most impressive lineup yet, as Common, a renowned hip-hop artist and actor, will speak at Hancher on Saturday.

Another big festival event is the public reading of the novel Frankenstein, organized by Anna Barker, in honor of its 200th year since being published. There will be screenings at FilmScene and an all-day reading of the book starting at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, at the Old Capitol.

Barker, who has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and has put together public readings since 2010, said every year the piece of literature selected is celebrating some kind of anniversary.

“All the books that we’ve covered during the readings have huge significance in our culture,” she said. “We take pride on the publication itself.”

There are a few general goals of the book festival, Kenyon said.

“We want these writers to come away from having presented here with a new audience, and we want people who come here as readers to come away with a stack of books and maybe some new authors that they decide that they want to follow,” Kenyon said. “It’s about making those connections.”

Iowa City has a strong literary foundation, and the Iowa City Book Festival pays homage to that.

“The most wonderful thing about the book festival is it sort of provides an umbrella organization for all of the various literature-related programs to perform the events and collaborate on various projects,” Barker said.

Being a City of Literature is something to take pride in, and Barker embraces that.

“I’m just thrilled that we are a UNESCO City of Literature, and I’m thrilled that we have so many literary innovations in town,” Barker said.

Another goal of the festival is to focus on the political aspect of literature, Kenyon said.

“There are a lot of authors that will present about topics that we have been talking about in our community,” he said. “Our hope is that this new information, these new perspectives that these authors bring will help to push those conversations forward.”

The Book Festival connects readers and writers, engages political programming, and celebrates Iowa City as a powerful community in literature.

“We wanted to have one big festival each year that gives people the opportunity to come out and experience a lot of what we have to offer through bringing in nationally prominent authors and giving a platform to local writers,” Kenyon said. “It’s really an opportunity for us as a community to shine a light on what’s going on in the literary world.”