The University of Iowa

UI faculty member D'Agata headlines busy week of live literary streams

John D'Agata, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and the UI Nonfiction Writing Program, and now a UI nonfiction faculty member, will read from his new book, "The Lifespan of a Fact," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, in Prairie Lights Books at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free reading is part of a busy week of Prairie Lights readings streamed live on the Writing University.

Other events that week are:

--Paul's Book Club's discussion of William Trevor's "The Story of Lucy Gault," at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, rescheduled from Feb. 14 (

--Poet Glenn Freeman, sampling his new collection, "Traveling Light," at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.

--Robert Leleux reading from "The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving," at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.

--Des Moines writer Jennifer Wilson reading from her memoir "Running Away to Home" at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24.

--Adel, Iowa, writer and former Iowa Citian Colleen Bradford Krantz reading from her nonfiction book "Train to Nowhere: Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation" at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25.


Freeman teaches creative writing at Cornell College. He has received grants from the Minnesota Arts Board, the Loft-McKnight Foundation, and the Iowa Arts Council, as well as fellowships from the Blacklock Nature Sanctuary and the Vermont Studio Center. He has served as artist-in-residence at Isle Royale National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. 

His first book of poems, "Keeping the Tigers Behind Us" was the winner of the judge's prize in the Sixth Annual Elixir Press Poetry Awards.

D'Agata's "The Lifespan of a Fact" focuses on the question of how negotiable a fact in nonfiction actually is. In 2003 one of his essays was rejected by the magazine that commissioned it due to factual inaccuracies. 


That essay which eventually became the foundation of D’Agata’s critically acclaimed "About a Mountain," was accepted by another magazine, but not before they handed it to their own fact-checker, Jim Fingal. What resulted from that assignment was seven years of arguments, negotiations, and revisions as they struggled to navigate the boundaries of literary nonfiction.

This book reproduces D’Agata’s essay, along with their extensive correspondence. What emerges is a meditation on the relationship between truth and accuracy and a penetrating conversation about whether it is appropriate for a writer to substitute one for the other.

D'Agata holds an MFA in Poetry from Writers' Workshop and is also a graduate of the UI Nonfiction Writing Program. His books include "About a Mountain," "Halls of Fame," "Lost Origins of the Essay," and "The Next American Essay." 

Leleux's memoir focuses on his grandmother, JoAnn, estranged from her daughter and slowly caving in to Alzheimer's. "The Living End" is a tribute to her and a testimony to the way a disease can awaken an urgent desire for love and forgiveness. 


JoAnn was a steel magnolia, an elegant and witty woman -- quick-tongued, generous in her affections, but sometimes oddly indifferent to the emotions of those who most needed her. When she began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, she'd been estranged from her daughter, Robert's mother Jessica, for decades. As her disease progressed, she lost most of her memories, but she also forgot her old wounds and anger. 

She became a happy, gentler person who was finally able to reach out to her daughter in what became a strangely life-affirming experience, an unexpected blessing that gave a divided family a second chance. 

Pat Conroy commented, "This book is at times hilarious, tender, and heartbreaking—further proof that Mr. Leleux is ripening into one of the best prose stylists in America."  

Jennifer Wilson and her husband Jim had always dreamed of taking a family sabbatical in another country, so when they lost half their savings in the stock-market crash, it seemed like just a crazy enough time to do it. As described in "Running Away to Home," the family packed up and left the troubled landscape of contemporary America for the land of Jennifer's ancestors -- the Croatian mountain village of Mrkopalj. 

For several months, the Wilson family lived like locals -- trying the local food, milking the neighbor's cows, and braving the village recipe for bootleg liquor. As the family struggled to stay sane and discover their roots, what they found was much deeper and bigger than themselves.

Michael Perry, the author of "Population: 485," wrote, “I like the heart and good humor of Jennifer Wilson: She has given us a book about the ways sense of place is heightened by displacement and the most enlightening scraps of history must be coaxed from the darkest corners.” 

Krantz' "Train to Nowhere" focuses on the 2002 railcar deaths of 11 undocumented immigrants. The story is told through the New York brother of one of the victims, an Omaha-based immigration agent and a conductor arrested for working with the smugglers, who locked the eleven Central Americans and Mexicans in the railcar. 

The book was the starting point for a regional Emmy-nominated public television documentary of the same name.

David Laskin, the author of "The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War" and "The Children’s Blizzard" observed, “With a reporter’s eye for detail and the deep sympathy of a novelist, Colleen Bradford Krantz recounts an archetypal episode in the story of 21st century immigration.

"Krantz accords a full measure of humanity to all the players in this gripping, tragic story the illegal immigrants desperate for a better life, the officials charged with regulating their passage, even the smugglers and coyotes responsible for their deaths. Our national immigration remains mired in confusion and injustice. This searing book belongs on the desks of everyone in a position to change it.” –

Krantz spent a decade as a newspaper reporter, working most recently for the Des Moines Register.