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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 21, 2004

Jan. 29 Prairie Lights Reading Features Workshop Students

Two recently published students in the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Daniel Alarcon and Yiyun Li, will present a free reading at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29 in the Prairie Lights book store at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

Stories by both students were published in recent issues of The New Yorker -- Alarcon's "City of Clowns" in June 2003 and Li's "Extra" in December 2003.

Li, who is also a student in the non-fiction program, has had work published in the Gettysburg Review and the Paris Review, where she won a Plimpton Award for new writers. Her essay about the Tiananmen Square massacre was published in The Journal, and a short story is forthcoming from Glimmer Train magazine.

She came to the United States from Beijing in 1996 with a limited command of English, but began writing in English in 1998.

Alarcon was born in Lima, Peru, in 1977 and grew up in Birmingham, Ala.

In an on-line New Yorker interview, he described the genesis of his short story: "A good friend of mine in Lima called me one day and asked me to lend him two hundred dollars to get his father's body out of the hospital. That's where it began. That kind of cruelty is an everyday thing in Lima and a thousand other places, and it stuck with me. The central image of clowns, well, clowns and street performers are just a part of Peruvian culture. They're everywhere in Lima."

Alarcon says that his motivation for writing fiction derives from his experience that "writing a story is about falling in love with your characters, and the attraction of writing stories is that you can fall in love many times with different people."

The Writers' Workshop is an academic unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,