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University of Iowa News Release

Release: July 16, 2004

July 26-30 'Live From Prairie Lights' Series Features Rescheduled Chang Reading

The July 26-30 week of readings on "Live from Prairie Lights," hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910, will feature the rescheduled appearance of UI Writers' Workshop alumna/faculty member Lan Samantha Chang, (left) which was postponed earlier this summer due to a publication delay. The full schedule of broadcast events the final week of July is:

-- Elizabeth Oness reading from "Departures," her debut novel, at 8 p.m. Monday, July 26;
-- Chang, reading from her new novel, "Inheritance," at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 27;
-- Lauren Grodstein reading from her first novel, "Reproduction is the Flaw of Love," at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 29; and
-- Writers' Workshop graduate Justin Cronin reading from "The Summer Guest," his latest novel, at 8 p.m. Friday, July 30.

Each reading will be a free event in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

In addition to the broadcast events, Writer's Workshop alumnus Bret Anthony Johnston will read from his short-story collection "Corpus Christi" at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 in Prairie Lights.

Oness, who teaches at Winona State University, is the author of "Articles of Faith," which won the 2000 Iowa Short Fiction Award from the Writers' Workshop, which included publication by the UI Press. Her stories have received numerous other honors, including an O. Henry Prize and a Nelson Algren Award.

"Departures" chronicles the adjustments of three daughters when their mother suddenly announces, "I'm leaving the country for a while," and disappears. Julianna Baggott called the novel "a vivid, deeply realistic portrait of contemporary women."

Chang, who is now on the faculty at Harvard University, is back in Iowa City this summer to teach in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. "Inheritance" follows her highly acclaimed debut, "Hunger." Set in China and America, the novel has been described as "a timeless story of familial devotion undermined by deceit and passion and rebuilt by memory."

Chang has been honored as the California Book Award Silver Medalist, as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and with a Bay Area Book Award. Her work has also been nominated for the PEN Center USA West Award and the PEN Hemingway Literature Prize. She has published stories in the Atlantic Monthly, Story and twice in "The Best American Short Stories." She has also held Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote fellowships at Stanford University, and won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Anna Shin wrote in the Seattle Contemporary Review of Asian American Literature, "Chang's restrained prose enthralls with its sheer elegance, gaining power as much from what is left unsaid as from that which is articulated. Ms. Chang also has the rare ability to fashion tales whose cumulative sum is greater than their individual parts; in her characters' lives, one finds a depth of meaning made universal not despite its specificity, but because of it."

Bret Anthony Johnston's work has been featured in the Paris Review and Open City, as well as many anthologies including "New Stories from the South: The Year's Best," "Prize Stories: The O. Henry Prize Stories 2002" and Scribner's "Best of the Fiction Workshops 1999." He teaches creative writing at California State University, San Bernardino.

Writers' Workshop faculty member Chris Offutt commented, "Bret Johnston writes with searing honesty and a deep compassion about the people in his native Texas. This astonishing book will break your heart, make you nod in comprehension, laugh out loud, and ultimately force you to see your own life in a fresh way. The prose is wonderfully precise and the observations are dead-on. 'Corpus' is a brilliant debut by a young writer who has clearly put literature at the center of his life."

And Jane Hamilton wrote,"Bret Anthony Johnston's stories read as if they'd been written by someone who's lived various lifetimes, time enough to develop real wisdom, generosity and the art of making strong clean sentences. What I especially love about these stories is the fact that many of the characters walk the finest line between violence and love, and they do so with a tenderness that is heartbreaking."

Lauren Grodstein lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and teaches at Cooper Union. A preview of "Reproduction is the Flaw of Love" in Publishers Weekly observed, "Grodstein's first novel (after 2002's collection 'The Best of Animals') is a sweet, honest account of the life and loves of 20-something Joel Miller. It's a rainy Saturday, and Miller has just been directed to walk the 12 blocks to the independent drug store in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to buy his girlfriend a pregnancy test. The rest of the novel takes place as Miller waits outside the bathroom door for Lisa to reveal the results, all the while pondering past loves and future concerns. . . .

"Grodstein's effortless prose slides forward and back in time, charting universal doubts with both specificity and economy. Her story is modest, but compulsively readable, as her familiar characters -- a fumbling father, a sad mother, a confused boy, a bratty best friend and an ice princess -- move in paths both inevitable and surprising."

Justin Cronin, whose awards include the Stephen Crane Prize, a Whiting Writers' Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, is now a professor of English at Rice University.

Critic Gisele Toueg wrote of his new novel, "The beauty of 'The Summer Guest' lies in Cronin's ability to create meaning in each character's situation. Whether dodging the draft on a fishing boat in rural Canada, serving up clams by the Boston Harbor, saying goodbye to a loved one, or finding new love where you were once afraid to look, Cronin creates deep, sincere characters with whom readers feel a powerful sense of investment."

And a review in the Boston Globe concluded, "Justin Cronin succeeds, touchingly and tenderly, in portraying life itself as a triumph of hope over experience."

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

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