Iowa Writers’ House celebrates second issue of We the Interwoven

The Iowa Writers’ House celebrated the launch of its second issue of We the Interwoven over the weekend.


Tian Liu

During Iowa Writers’ House’s launch at Prairie Lights on June 29, 2019. Sarah Elgatian, a writer read her work. (Tian Liu/The Daily Iowan)

Tian Liu, News Reporter

All the seats in Prairie Lights on June 29 were filled with people gathered to welcome the second issue of We the Interwoven, a book published by the Iowa Writers’ House.

“Iowa Writers’ House is the only community organization in Iowa for writers to participate in educational programs and workshops and to find resources,” said Andrea Wilson, the founder of the Writers’ House.

The book is a collection of stories by immigrants and bicultural citizens living in the Midwest, according to the Writers’ House website. It is the product of the 2018-19 Bicultural Iowa Writers’ Fellowship.

The fellowship program, which started in December 2017, is Iowa’s first fellowship giving immigrants and their families the opportunity to write their stories, Wilson said. The first volume of We the Interwoven was published in 2018, filled with three fellows’ works.

“We do a call across the state for applications. Anyone who identifies with the second culture beyond American can apply, the first generation, the second generation, or direct immigrant,” Wilson said.

This year, the book features seven new voices across Iowa. They all come from different backgrounds that represent different cultural groups in the state. Wilson said three of the writers are this year’s fellows, and four of them are honorable mentions.

“I think the book does a cool job saying, ‘This is what it is to be not the dominant population [in] Iowa’; the side of the story does a lot more on that message,” said Sarah Elgatian, one of this year’s writers.

Elgatian wrote about her Armenian grandmother. Her piece speaks to the second-generation idea of belonging, she believes.

“I play with the point between assimilation and discovery but as a full unit,” she said.

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Wilson said the purpose of the book is for it to have an effect on people’s perspective of what it is to be an Iowan and an American in a time in which the world is changing.

“What we’re looking for is a sample of diverse cultures in the fellowship, a sample of diverse Iowa geographies and a story we believe Iowa readers would benefit from reading or knowing,” she said.

One of the unique properties of the book is that it includes translations of the languages, she said. They are not on the back of the book, they are published right after the English section.

“So a person reading this book gets to see Arabic … gets to see Spanish, Vietnamese … Armenian,” Wilson said.

She said the book also has cultural background glossaries so that the readers can understand more about the context of the stories and cultures.

“All of the writers this year, so far in both years of the program, have written the original works in English, and we have translations,” said Alisha Jeddeloh, the associate director of the program.

Jeddeloh said the house has been open to the writers’ decision of whether they want to write in Spanish or other languages and have it translated into English. She is also the editor of the book.

Elgatian said she was surprised by how much she learned in her revision process.

“I would encourage everyone to share their story, and everyone always who feels like an artist to go for being artists,” Elgatian said.

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