Prairie Lights hosts International Writing Program instructors of Summer Youth Program

The International Writers Program’s instructors read their works to students and the public.


David Harmantas

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

Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

Prairie Lights presented an international reading on July 18 to showcase not just writers from all around the globe but also the University of Iowa International Writing Program. With fiction writers, nonfiction writers, poets, and journalists, they demonstrated the universality of storytelling.

The summer program attracts students from the U.S. and 17 other counties to Iowa City.

“[The] reading is from our four instructors who we have teaching our students,” IWP Youth Programs Coordinator Katie Prout said. “ I feel really lucky that they came and joined us for this session — our students are learning so much.

Armen of Armenia, or Armen Ohanyan, started the reading with the short story “Detailment.” The story uses a melding of mathematical equations, shapes, and a self-conducted interview to talk about love.

“ ‘Detailment’ is a two-part story about insecurities and love,” Ohanyan read from the story’s epilogue.

“The heroes of ‘Detailment’ No. 1 are from different worlds; they are so different they can’t be in a relationship,” he said. “The characters from ‘Detailment’ No. 2 are from the same world; they are so alike they can’t be in a relationship, either. Love is somewhere in between.”

The lighthearted story was followed by a passage from Asli Perker’s Soufflé. The novel follows the lives of three people from around the globe going through vastly different hardships while they work through the same cookbook.

The event also showcased U.S.-born poet Dora Malech, who took the mic and read a handful of her poetry. She earned a B.A. from Yale and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and told the crowd that they, too, found a bit of home here in Iowa, much as she had.

“It’s really great to be back in Iowa City, which in many ways will always be home to me,” Malech said. “I hope that feels that way to others even if you’re only here for two weeks.”

The event ended with an interstellar story from writer Yuriy Serebriansky that follows a Soviet cosmonaut and his space capsule killing a farmer’s cows when it lands. The dreamlike trance of space in the story is juxtaposed with the amusing, awkward encounter with the farmer.

The four writers have taught in this summer’s IWP Youth Programs. The diverse nationalities, ages, and personalities educated the students and also educated and inspired the teachers, Malech said.

“Just to say that for all the young writers in here,” she said. “I am incredibly inspired by your work and your incredible bravery to come here together.”