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University of Iowa News Release


June 2, 2009

'Live from Prairie Lights' series presents diverse lineup June 8-12

The "Live from Prairie Lights" reading series, which is streamed live and archived by the Writing University Web site at the University of Iowa, will have nightly events at 7 p.m. June 8-12: John Miles on Monday, Andre Dubus III on Tuesday, a flood anniversary event on Wednesday, Robin Hemley on Thursday and Mahbod Seraji on Friday.

The Dubus reading on Tuesday will be in the Iowa City Public Library, and the other four readings will be in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. The free events will be streamed live on, and will be made available later through the Writing University archive.

Miles, the New York Times cocktail columnist and frequent contributor to GQ magazine, will read from his debut novel, "Dear American Airlines." Publishers Weekly described the epistolary book as "a crisp yowl of a first novel."

Dubus, the bestselling author of "House of Sand and Fog," will read from his new novel, "The Garden of Last Days," inspired by rumors that some of the 9/11 hijackers visited a strip club shortly before the attacks.

Writing for Booklist, Donna Seaman concluded, "Improvising on the pre-attack actions of the 9/11 terrorists, Dubus' hyperdetailed, visceral, and prurient yet undeniably compassionate thriller boldly explores the bewildering complexities of sexuality, and the dire repercussions of isolation and desperation."

In addition to the reading, Dubus will lecture for the Iowa Writing Festival at 10 a.m. June 10 in 101 Biology Building East. This event is free and open to the public.

The Johnson County Historical Society is archiving flood narratives written by high-school students, and on Wednesday evening several of the students will read from their contributions.

Hemley, the Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnus who is the director of the UI Nonfiction Writing Program, will read from "Do-Over!" his account of his attempts to repair the major embarrassments of his childhood and adolescence by revisiting the sites of his worst failures -- from kindergarten to high school, summer camp to standardized testing.

Bernard Cooper, author of "The Bill From My Father," wrote: "'Do-Over!' is one of the funniest, wisest, most perfectly observed books I've ever read.  Robin Hemley possesses a keen insight into the all-too-human wish to rectify our past mistakes. He also knows that we are better for having made them."

Hemley has been in the international spotlight recently for drawing attention to the Philippine's "Great Book Blockade of 2009." In Manila on a Guggenheim Fellowship, Hemley observed that a custom official began charging an import tax on books, in violation of treaties. The story quickly made the rounds of the blogosphere, caught the attention of UNESCO and led Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to order an immediate end to the illegal taxation.

Seraji earned a bachelors degree in broadcasting and film and a doctorate at the UI as an Iranian exile after the overthrow of the Shah and the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War.

He came to the United States in 1976, expected by his family to study civil engineering. But his real love was film. After completing a bachelor's degree in film, he went on to finish a master's degree and a doctorate in instructional design and technology. "Those were the worst years of my life," Mahbod told Payvand Iran News. "Besides the grim news out of Iran, I was penniless. There was no way to get money from back home. And as a foreign student, I was only allowed to work 20 hours per week on the university campus."

He finally convinced university officials to make an exception and allow him to work extra hours. "I worked at the university laundry facilities, at the business school library and at the university's physical plant, tagging steam valves and pumps," he recalls. "I was always a semester or two behind in paying my out-of-state tuition. And I used to smoke back then. Sometimes I had to choose between buying lunch or a pack of cigarettes. On most days, it was easier to skip a meal than to go all day without smoking!"

After a career with major American corporations, he now works as an independent management consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Seraji's debut novel, "Rooftops of Iran," is a tale of young love and coming of age in an Iran headed toward revolution. He lays bare the beauty and brutality of the centuries-old Persian culture, while reaffirming the human experiences we all share.

A review in the San Francisco Chronicle observed, "His novel is very cinematic, not only in how it portrays the close-knit neighborhood of the main characters -- the alley where the kids play soccer, the rooftops where the teenagers relax, hash out existential questions and confess their love -- but also in the way the story builds momentum. The teens suffer typical adolescent struggles in the relatively carefree summer of 1973, until their lives are torn apart by the shah's secret police and political dissidents' violent acts."

The Writers' Workshop and the Nonfiction Writing Program are units 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, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),