An Influencer’s World: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Social Media Influencers and Creators by Caroline Baker and Don Baker University of Iowa Press, June 2023
An Influencer’s World: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Social Media Influencers and Creators by Caroline Baker and Don Baker explores the business of influencing built around likes and hate, which can take a huge psychological toll on those who choose to play the game. Their work pulls back the curtain and shines a light on the often-misunderstood realities of this dynamic industry. Featuring dozens of interviews with trending influencers, CEOs, leading industry insiders, brands, mental health professionals, and celebrities, this book provides an unconventional look at both the business side of influencing and the personal lives of influencers and creators.
Winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, Melissa Crow’s Lo maps the deprivation and richness of a rural girlhood and offers an intimate portrait of the woman—tender, hungry, hopeful—who manages to emerge. In a series of lyric odes and elegies, Lo explores the notion that we can be partially constituted by lack—poverty, neglect, isolation. The child in the book’s early sections is beloved and lonely, cherished and abused, lucky and imperiled, and by leaning into this complexity the poems render a tentative and shimmering space sometimes occluded, the space occupied by a girl coming to find herself and the world beautiful, even as that world harms her.
The Principles of Comedy Improv is an authoritative handbook for beginners and experts alike. More than just entertainment, improv’s tenets enable you to change every moment of your life. Your guide is Tom Blank, who crystallizes two decades of experience to convey improv in unparalleled scope, depth, and fun. Blank lives in Los Angeles and is senior instructor at the Groundlings Theatre & School, where he teaches improv and sketch comedy.
Part wunderkammer, part grimoire, Maggie Queeney’s In Kind is focused on survival. A chorus of personae, speaking into and through a variety of poetic forms, guide the reader through the aftermath of generations of domestic, gendered, and sexual violence, before designing a transformation and rebirth. These are poems of witness, self-creation, and reclamation.
Jim Finley—a recently retired English teacher living alone on the shifting edge of San Francisco—has been set, unwittingly, on the back porch of life. Trying to harmonize the voices in his head, he sits most days by his stack of “to-do” books until, one day, his daughter comes home with the worst news of her life. Everything changes. As his broken heart reengages, he steps back into a new world. He sees his ex-wife has launched into a larger life than the one they’d shared. He is surprised to find it easier to talk to his son’s immigrant girlfriend, or even the remains of a Russian saint, than to the young man he’s raised. He misconnects with Carol—his first date in decades—a woman he enjoys talking with but doesn’t quite hear. Set in the pre-tech calm before the turn of this century, Outer Sunset is a deeply felt story about the intimate place where long-lasting growth occurs in our lives; how we revise, or live without, our dreams; how to love the flaws of those closest to you and watch a child grow away into someone better than you’d imagined; and how to be shaken by beauty amidst unimaginable loss and remain standing.
In The Auburn Conference: A Novel by Tom Piazza, it is 1883, and America is at a crossroads. At a tiny college in Upstate New York, an idealistic young professor has managed to convince Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Confederate memoirist Forrest Taylor, and romance novelist Lucy Comstock to participate in the first (and last) Auburn Writers’ Conference for a public discussion about the future of the nation. By turns brilliantly comic and startlingly prescient, The Auburn Conference vibrates with questions as alive and urgent today as they were in 1883—the chronic American conundrums of race, class, and gender, and the fate of the democratic ideal.
In the last 200 years, Iowa’s prairies and other wildlands have been transformed into vast agricultural fields. This massive conversion has provided us with food, fiber, and fuel in abundance. But it has also robbed Iowa’s land of its native resilience and created the environmental problems that today challenge our everyday lives: polluted waters, increasing floods, loss and degradation of rich prairie topsoil, compromised natural systems, and now climate change. In a straightforward, friendly style, Iowa’s premier scientists and experts consider what has happened to our land and outline viable solutions that benefit agriculture as well as the state’s human and wild residents. Mutel is author of The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa (Iowa, 2008) and A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland (Iowa, 2016). She is the former senior science writer at IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa College of Engineering and lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
At once playfully dark and slyly hopeful, Stories No One Hopes Are About Them explores convergences of power, privilege, and place. Characters who are ni de aquí, ni de allá—neither from here nor there—straddle competing worlds, disrupt paradigms, and transition from objects of other people’s stories to active subjects and protagonists of their own. Narratives of humanity and environment entwine with nuanced themes of colonization, queerness, and evolution at the forefront. Big things happen in this collection. But it’s also a collection of small intimacies: misremembered names, chipped teeth, and private rituals; unexpected alliances and barely touched knees beneath uniform skirts; minutiae of the natural world; incidents that quietly, achingly, and delightfully transgress the familiar. Winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award.
Throughout Sound Fury, poems by metaphysician Robert Herrick are refashioned into phantasmagorical oddities of likeness and difference. Figures from the fringes of popular imagination—Zane Grey, Robinson Crusoe, Porfirio Díaz—surface as cobbled-together avatars on the theme of identity. Brilliantly asserting the necessity of humane and resistant modes of speech against the vapid sounds and enforced silences of orthodoxy, Sound Fury finds the poet “Now, in our former state/ In our current one/ In stately procession,” venturing forth in a world “where things of questionable being go.”
Welcome to Dragon Talk: Inspiring Conversations About Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Love to Play It By Shelly Mazzanoble and Greg Tito University of Iowa Press, December 2022
If you have any D&D fans on your holiday gift lists, then Welcome to Dragon Talk is exactly what you are looking for! Hosts of the official D&D podcast, Shelly Mazzanoble and Greg Tito and their surprising guests show how this beloved pastime has amassed a diverse, tight-knit following of players who defy stereotypes. The authors recount some of their most inspiring interviews and illuminate how their guests use the core tenets of the game in everyday life. An A-list actor defends D&D by baring his soul (and his muscles) on social media. A teacher in a disadvantaged district in Houston creates a D&D club that motivates students to want to read and think analytically. A writer and live-streamer demonstrates how D&D–inspired communication breaks barriers and empowers people of color. Readers will see why Dungeons & Dragons has remained such a pop culture phenomenon and how it has given this disparate and growing community the inspiration to flourish and spread some in-game magic into the real world.
Hajar Hussaini’s poems in Disbound scrutinize the social, political, and historical traces inherited from one’s language. The traces she finds—the flow of international commodities implied in a plosive consonant, an image of the world’s nations convening to reject the full stop—retrieve a personal history between countries (Afghanistan and the United States) and languages (Persian and English) that has been constantly disrupted and distorted by war, governments, and media. Hussaini sees the subjectivity emerging out of these traces as mirroring the governments to whom she has been subject, blurring the line between her identity and her legal identification. The poems of Disbound seek beauty and understanding in sadness and confusion, and find the chance for love in displacement, even as the space for reconciliation in politics and thought seems to get narrower.
Winner of The John Simmons Short Fiction Award, The Woods explores the lives of people in a small Vermont college town and its surrounding areas—a place at the edge of the bucolic, where the land begins to shift into something untamed. In the tradition of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, these stories follow people who carry private griefs but search for contentment. As they try to make sense of their worlds, grappling with problems—worried about their careers, their marriages, their children, their ambitions—they also sift through the happiness they have, and often find deep solace in the landscape.
Memorandum from the Iowa Cloud Appreciation Society Fiction by Joseph G. Peterson University of Iowa Press, November 2022
When his girlfriend, Rosemary, asks about his life, Jim Moore, a successful salesman whose territory covers the entire continental United States and parts of Canada, doesn’t think there is anything to say and so he tells her “nothing happened,” or maybe he doesn’t know how to put it all into words or maybe he doesn’t want to. Stuck in an airport because of blizzard conditions, and packed into a crowded terminal with other travelers, Moore has come to believe that his life is not worth reporting about because it has largely been a life lived without incident. However, chance encounters with a yoga instructor, a man traveling to bury his mother, and an enigmatic woodsman reawaken long dormant emotions about his father’s suicide and cause Jim to newly reflect on his own life and on a memorandum that he later discovered in his deceased father’s papers, which lists all the names of the clouds, and which Jim now, from time to time, recants as if it were his own private kaddish to memorialize his lost father.
Butcher’s Work: True Crime Tales of American Murder and Madness Nonfiction by Harold Schechter University of Iowa Press, November 2022
In Butcher’s Work, Harold Schechter explores the story of a Civil War veteran who perpetrated one of the most ghastly mass slaughters in the annals of U.S. crime. A nineteenth-century female serial killer whose victims included three husbands and six of her own children. A Gilded Age “Bluebeard” who did away with as many as fifty wives throughout the country. A decorated World War I hero who orchestrated a murder that stunned Jazz Age America. While other infamous homicides from the same eras—the Lizzie Borden slayings, for example, or the “thrill killing” committed by Leopold and Loeb—have entered into our cultural mythology, these four equally sensational crimes have largely faded from public memory. A quartet of gripping historical true-crime narratives, Butcher’s Work restores these once-notorious cases to vivid, dramatic life. Harold Schechter is professor emeritus at Queens College, CUNY. Among his more than forty books are a series of historical true-crime narratives about America’s most infamous serial killers, including Hell’s Princess. He is married to the poet, Kimiko Hahn.
Douglas Bauer’s newest work, The Beckoning World, is set in the first quarter of the twentieth century and follows Earl Dunham, whose weeks are comprised of six days mining coal followed by Sundays playing baseball. Then, one day, a major-league scout happens on a game, signs Earl, and he begins a life he had no idea he could even dream. But dreams sometimes suffer from a lovely abundance, and in Earl’s case, her name is Emily Marchand. They fall quickly and deeply in love, but with that love comes heartbreaking complications. The Beckoning World gathers a cast of characters that include Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, a huge-hearted Pullman steward offering aphoristic wisdom, and countless others, not least of which is the 1918 Spanish flu taking vivid spectral form. At the center is a relentless love that Earl and Emily are defenseless against, allied as they are “in this business of their hearts.” Douglas Bauer has written several books, including Prairie City, Iowa: Three Seasons at Home (Iowa, 2008). He teaches writing at Bennington College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Six-Minute Memoir: Fifty-Five Short Essays on Life Memoir by Mary Helen Stefaniak A Bur Oak Book University of Iowa Press, October 2022
Culled from two decades’ worth of Mary Helen Stefaniak’s “Alive and Well” column in the Iowa Source, each essay invites readers into the ordinary life of a woman “with a family and friends and a job . . . and a series of cats and a history living in one old house after another at the turn of the twenty-first century in the middle of the Middle West.” One great aunt presides over nineteen acres of pecan grove profitably strewn with junk. A borrowed hammer rings with the sound of immortality. Famous poets pipe up where you least expect them. Living and dying are found to be two sides of the same remarkable coin. Writing prompts at the end of the book invite readers to search their own lives for such moments—the kind that could be forgotten but instead are turned, by the gift of perspective and perfectly chosen detail, into treasure. The Six-Minute Memoir encourages people to tell their own stories even if they think they don’t have the kind of story that belongs in a memoir.
Fandom, the Next Generation is the first collection of essays to offer a close study of fan generations, which are defined not only by fans’ ages but by their entry point into a canon or via their personal politics. Editors Bridget Kies and Megan Connor selected contributors to further the conversation about how generational fandom is influenced by and, in turn, influences technologies, industry practices, and social and political changes. As reboot culture continues, as franchises continue expanding over time, and as new technologies enable easier access to older media, Fandom, the Next Generation offers a necessary investigation into transgenerational fandoms and intergenerational fan relationships.
The Plea: The True Story of Young Wesley Elkins and his Struggle for Redemption American History / True Crime by Patricia L. Bryan and Thomas Wolf University of Iowa Press, July 2022
On a moonlit night in 1889, Iowa farmer John Elkins and his young wife, Hattie, were brutally murdered in their bed. Eight days later, their son, eleven-year-old Wesley Elkins, was arrested and charged with murder. The community reeled with shock by both the gruesome details of the homicides and the knowledge of the accused perpetrator—a small, quiet boy weighing just seventy-five pounds. Accessible and fast-moving, The Plea delivers a complete, complex, and nuanced narrative of this horrific crime, while shedding light on the legal, social, and political environment of Iowa and the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bryan and Wolf also coauthored of Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland (Iowa, 2007). Both reside in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
These Dark Skies: Reckoning with Identity, Violence, and Power from Abroad Essays by Arianne Zwartjes University of Iowa Press, June 2022
In These Dark Skies, Arianne Zwartjes interweaves the experience of living in the southern Netherlands—with her wife, who is Russian—and the unfolding of both the refugee crisis across Europe and the uptick in terrorist acts in France, Greece, Austria, Germany, and the Balkans. She probes her own subjectivity, as a white American, as a queer woman in a transcultural marriage, as a writer, and as a witness. The essays investigate and meditate on a broad array of related topics, including drone strikes, tear gas, and military intervention; the sugar trade, the Dutch blackface celebration of Zwarte Piet, and constructions of whiteness in Europe and the U.S.; and visual arts of Russian avant-garde painters, an Iraqi choreographer living in Belgium, and German choreographer Pina Bausch.
All Is Leaf: Essays and Transformations by John T. Price draws inspiration and urgency from the storied Goethe Oak tree at Buchenwald concentration camp—and from the leaf as a symbol of all change, growth, and renewal—and explores a multitude of dramatic transformations, in his life and in the fragile world beyond: “the how of the organism—that keeps your humanity alive.” Price employs an array of forms and voices, whether penning a break-up letter to America or a literary rock-n-roll road song dedicated to prairie scientists, or giving pregame pep talks to his son’s losing football team. Here, too, are moving portrayals of his father’s last effort as a small-town lawyer to defend the rights of abused women, and his own efforts as a writing teacher to honor the personal stories of his students.
The Illusion of Simple by Charles Forrest Jones begins in a dry Kansas riverbed where a troop of young girls finds a human hand. This discovery leads Billy Spire, the tough and broken sheriff of Ewing County, to investigate and confront the depths of his community and of himself: the racism, the dying economy, the lies and truths of friendship, grievances of the past and present, and even his own injured marriage. But like any town where people still breathe, there is also love and hope and the possibility of redemption. To flyover folks, Ewing County appears nothing more than a handful of empty streets amid crop circles and the meandering, depleted Arkansas River. But the truth of this place—the interwoven lives and stories—is anything but simple. Charles Forrest Jones is former director of the Kansas University Public Management Center and believes that “public policy is rooted in the human condition, there is a place for the articulate, compelling, even beautiful.”
In What Flies Want, disaster looms in domesticity: a family grapples with its members’ mental health, a marriage falters, and a child experiments with self-harm. With its backdrop of school lockdown drills, #MeToo, and increasing political polarization, the collection asks how these private and public tensions are interconnected. The speaker, who grew up in a bicultural family on the U.S./Mexico border, learns she must play a role in a culture that prizes whiteness, patriarchy, and chauvinism. As an adult, she oscillates between performed confidence and obedience. As a wife, she bristles against the expectations of emotional labor. As a mother, she attempts to direct her white male children away from the toxic power they are positioned to inherit, only to find how deeply she is also implicated in these systems. Tangled in a family history of depression, a society fixated on guns, a rocky relationship, and her own desire to ignore and deny the problems she must face, this is a speaker who is by turns defiant, defeated, self-implicating, and hopeful. Winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. Emily Pérez is author of House of Sugar, House of Stone, and coedited The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood.
In this collection of eleven stories, a harried and depressed mother of three young children serves on a committee that watches over the bottomless sinkhole that has appeared in her Kentucky town. During COVID lockdown, a thirty-four-year-old gamer moves back home with his parents and is revisited by his long-forgotten childhood imaginary friend. A politician running for a state congressional seat and a young mother, who share the same set of fears about the future, cross paths but don’t fully understand one another. A woman attends a party at the home of a fellow church parishioner and discovers she is on the receiving end of a sales pitch for a doomsday prepper. These stories and more contemplate our current reality with both frankness and hard-earned hopefulness, realism and fabulism, tackling parenthood, environment, and the absurd-but-unavoidable daily toil of worrying about mundane matters when we’ve entered “an era of unknowability, of persistent strangeness.” Holly Goddard Jones is associate professor in the MFA program in creative writing at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She is author of Girl Trouble, The Next Time You See Me, and The Salt Line.
Challenging Pregnancy: A Journey Through the Politics and Science of Healthcare in America Nonfiction by Genevieve Grabman University of Iowa Press, March 2022
In Challenging Pregnancy, Genevieve Grabman recounts being pregnant with identical twins whose circulatory systems were connected in a rare condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. Doctors couldn’t “unfuse” the fetuses because one twin also had several other confounding problems: selective intrauterine growth restriction, a two-vessel umbilical cord, a marginal cord insertion, and, possibly, a parasitic triplet. Ultimately, national anti-abortion politics — not medicine or her own choices — determined the outcome of Grabman’s pregnancy. At every juncture, anti-abortion politics limited the care available to her, the doctors and hospitals willing to treat her, the tools doctors could use, and the words her doctors could say. Although she asked for aggressive treatment to save at least one baby, hospital ethics boards blocked all able doctors from helping her. Challenging Pregnancy is about Grabman’s harrowing pregnancy and the science and politics of maternal healthcare in the United States, where every person must self-advocate for the desired outcome of their own pregnancy.
They Don’t Want Her There: Fighting Sexual and Racial Harassment in the American University Nonfiction by Carolyn Chalmers University of Iowa Press, April 2022
Decades before the #MeToo movement, Chinese American professor Jean Jew M.D. brought a lawsuit against the University of Iowa, alleging a sexually hostile work environment within the university’s College of Medicine. As Jew gained accolades and advanced through the ranks at Iowa, she was met with increasingly vicious attacks on her character by her white male colleagues. After years of demoralizing sexual, racial, and ethnic discrimination, finding herself without any higher-up departmental support, and noting her professional progression beginning to suffer by the hands of hate, Jean Jew decided to fight back. Carolyn Chalmers was her lawyer. This book tells the inside story of pioneering litigation unfolding during the eight years of a university investigation, a watershed federal trial, and a state court jury trial.
Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. South African American Studies by Jodi Skipper University of Iowa Press, March 2022
When residents and tourists visit sites of slavery, all too often the lives of slaveowners are centered, obscuring the lives of enslaved people. Behind the Big House is a candid, behind-the-scenes look at what it really takes to interpret the difficult history of slavery in the U.S. South. The book explores Jodi Skipper’s eight-year collaboration with the Behind the Big House program, a community-based model used at local historic sites to address slavery in the collective narrative of U.S. history and culture.
Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory, and Family Memoir by Madhushree Ghosh University of Iowa Press, April 2022
Khabaar is a food memoir and personal narrative that braids the global journeys of South Asian food through immigration, migration, and indenture. Focusing on chefs, home cooks, and food stall owners, the book questions what it means to belong and what belonging looks like in a new place with foods carried over from the old country. These questions are integral to the Ghosh’s own immigrant journey to America as a daughter of Indian refugees (from what’s now Bangladesh to India during the 1947 Partition of India); as a woman of color in science; as a woman who left an abusive marriage; and as a woman who keeps her parents’ memory alive through her Bengali food. Includes eleven color and three b&w photos in addition to the gorgeous cover photo.