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University of Iowa News Release

March 21, 2003

Noted Latino Author Casares Lectures March 27

The first in a planned series of forums promoting creative and scholarly work from a Latino perspective kicks off Thursday, March 27 with a lecture by author and 2001 University of Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Oscar Casares titled "The Untold Story: Latinos in Publishing."

The University of Iowa Council on the Status of Latinos (CSL) established the Latino Lecture Series and is sponsoring the March 27 talk, which runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the South Room of the Iowa Memorial Union. The event is free and open to the public.

Casares, who was recently cited by BOOK Magazine as one of the top 10 writers to watch in 2003, will discuss the new voice of emerging American writers of Latino heritage, the publishing industry's response to these new voices and how he came to be a writer. His most recent book is a collection of short fiction titled Brownsville: Stories.

During his visit to Iowa City Casares will also give a reading from his new book as part of the "Live from Prairie Lights" series 8 p.m. Friday, March 28. The reading will be hosted by Julie Englander and will air live on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910.

Casares has been selling his paperback short-story collection at check-out counters of grocery stores in his hometown of Brownsville in south Texas.

"I wanted my book to be accessible to the people its stories are about," Casares told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Casares was an advertising copywriter in Austin until 1996 and an infrequent reader. "Writing books was something I didn't think about at all," he says "But I did like to tell the same kinds of stories about people in my hometown that I'd heard my uncles tell. I'd tell these stories to friends as we sat around in bars."

The impulse to write down some of the stories resulted in a sudden change of direction, including his time at the Writers' Workshop.

"Oscar's sense of focus is both acute and insightful," says Greg Barrios, books editor of the San Antonio Express-News. "Like the best writers, he knows where his story begins and where it ends."

Casares finds the universal in his Brownsville stories, which he says depict the common desire "to get ahead, to fall in love, to try and learn from mistakes and be a better person, failing at that sometimes -- these things that go into being human. And the people who feel and do these things happen to be Mexican-American."

A preview in Publishers Weekly concurred: "Probing underneath the surface of Tex-Mex culture, Casares' stories, with their wisecracking, temperamental, obsessive middle-aged men and their dramas straight from neighborhood gossip are in the direct line of descent from Mark Twain and Ring Lardner."

In May 2002, the Texas Institute of Letters awarded Oscar with a Dobie Paisano Fellowship, which included a six-month residence at a 264-acre ranch just outside of Austin. That same year, the Copernicus Society of America presented him with James Michener Award, which provides financial support to a writer completing a promising work of fiction.

More information about Casares can be found on his website at For more information about his March 27 lecture and the Latino Lecture Series, contact Adele Lozano, co-chair of the UI Council on the Status of Latinos, at 319-335-0591.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, Program: Adele Lozano, co-chair of the UI Council on the Status of Latinos, at 319-335-0591.