Environmental Imagination Reading Series Events 2014-15


Monday, October 6
7:00 pm – Sun Room, Memorial Union

Jane SmileyWriting about Iowa
A Conversation with Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres. Her new novel, Some Luck, follows an American farm family during three transformative decades.The book is the first in a trilogy covering 100 years in this family’s history. Smiley is the author of numerous novels, as well as five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She was a professor of English at Iowa State from 1981 to 1996 and has a masters, MFA and doctorate from the University of Iowa. Steve Sullivan, local film reviewer and member of the Ames Public Library Friends Foundation, will moderate the discussion.

A book signing will follow the event.

Some Luck: A Novel
On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different yet equally remarkable children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family’s land; Lillian, an angelic child who enters a fairy-tale marriage with a man only she will fully know; Henry, the bookworm who’s not afraid to be different; and Claire, who earns the highest place in her father’s heart. Moving from post-World War I America through the early 1950s, Some Luck gives us an intimate look at this family’s triumphs and tragedies, zooming in on the realities of farm life, while casting – as the children grow up and scatter to New York, California, and everywhere in between – a panoramic eye on the monumental changes that marked the first half of the twentieth century. Rich with humor and wisdom, twists and surprises, Some Luck takes us through deeply emotional cycles of births and deaths, passions, and betrayals, displaying Smiley’s dazzling virtuosity, compassion, and understanding of human nature and the nature of history, never discounting the role of fate and chance. This potent conjuring of many lives across generations is a stunning tour de force.

Cosponsored By:

Ames Public Library
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)

Thursday, November 6
7:00 pm – Sun Room, Memorial UnionTaylor_Sam
Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor is the author of two books of poetry, Body of the World and Nude Descending an Empire. His work explores the contemporary moment, with an emphasis on politics, globalism and the urgency of our ecological crisis. Taylor spent three years as a caretaker in a remote wildlife refuge and cites the experience as an essential foundation of his work. He is an assistant professor in the MFA program at Wichita State University and the recipient of the 2014-2015 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship. Environmental Imagination Series

Nude Descending an Empire
Pitt Poetry Series, Fall 2014

Nude Descending an Empire develops the lyrical voice of a citizen-poet engaged with history and our contemporary moment, especially its ecological urgency. Speaking not only as a citizen of the United States, but as a citizen of the world—and of what Martin Espada has called “The Republic of Poetry”—Taylor constructs a poetry that is political in that it recognizes that everything in our world is political, but that remains governed by mystery. Begun during several years the author spent caretaking a snowed-in wilderness refuge and completed after his reentry into the twenty-first century, the collection spans a gamut from primitive silence to hyper-modernity.

Cosponsored By:

  • MFA Program in Writing & the Environment
  • The Writers’ Guild of ISU​.
  • Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)



Thursday, January 22
7:00 pm – Campanile Room, Memorial UnionAlison Hawthorne Deming1
Alison Hawthorne Deming

“Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit”

Writer and poet Alison Hawthorne Deming is the author of the new book Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit, a collection of essays that explores the loss of animals and its meaning for human imagination and existence. Hawthorne is a professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona, where she is also affiliated with the Institute of the Environment and a member of the board of directors of Orion magazine. Her body of work include several books of poetry, including Science and Other Poems, winner of the Walt Whitman Award, and three other nonfiction books: Temporary Homelands, The Edges of the Civilized World, and Writing the Sacred Into the Real. Part of the Creative Writing Program’s Environmental Imagination Series

Alison Hawthorne Deming received an MFA from Vermont College, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, and two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cosponsored By:
MFA Program in Writing & the Environment
Department of English
Writers’ Guild of ISU
Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)
Here’s the link: http://www.lectures.iastate.edu/lecture/34560



Tuesday, March 3Fagin1

12:00 pm – Pioneer Room, Memorial Union

Researching & Reporting Complex Environmental Stories
A Conversation with Dan Fagin

Join Dan Fagin, author of Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, for an informal discussion about science writing and writing about the environment. Fagin is an award-winning investigative and scientific journalist who directs New York University’s graduate program in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting. His book Toms River won the the 2014 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction and the National Academies Science Book Award. Kelly Slivka, a graduate student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment, will moderate the discussion.

Kelly Slivka is a former Pearl Hogrefe Fellow in Creative Writing at Iowa State, and she served as the managing editor of the online literary journal Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Slivka completed an MA in science journalism at New York University, where she spent much of her time at sea surveying marine life in the Atlantic Ocean.


7:00 pm – Great Hall, Memorial Union
Dan Fagin

Environmental Imagination Series Keynote

Fagin2Dan Fagin is an investigative reporter, prize-winning science journalist, and the author of Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, which won the 2014 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction and the National Academies Science Book Award. Fagin weaves together science and statistical analysis with investigative reporting to tell this community’s story of industrial pollution, its subsequent cancer epidemic, and a decades-long fight for answers. Dan Fagin is a professor of journalism at New York University and director of the graduate program in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting. He is also the author of Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law and Endangers Your Health. Part of the Creative Writing Program’s Environmental Imagination Series

Cosponsored By:
MFA Program in Creative Writing & Environment
Department of English
Writers’ Guild of ISU
Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)
Here’s the link: http://www.lectures.iastate.edu/lecture/34225


Wednesday, March 11
8:00 pm – Great Hall, Memorial Union
Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva

The Future of Food

Vandana Shiva is a philosopher and environmental activist who promotes ecological justice and biodiversity. She is the founder of the Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology, which works with local farming communities to promote fair trade and agroecological farming practices. Vandana Shiva is the author of numerous books, including Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Her honors and awards include the 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

Cosponsored By:
Asian American Studies Program
Community and Regional Planning Club
ISU Student Organic Farm
Iowa Farmers Union
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Office of Sustainability
Sustainable Agriculture Student Association
Women’s & Gender Studies Program
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)
Link: http://www.lectures.iastate.edu/lecture/32739


Monday, April 6
7:00 pm – Great Hall, Memorial Union
Ava ChinChin1

Eating Wildly: Foraging for Live, Love and the Perfect Meal

chin2Ava Chin, a native of Queens, is the author of Eating Wildly, a memoir about foraging for food in New York City. The book catalogs the variety of edible and medicinal plants she discovers in urban parks and backyards and includes recipes and culinary information. It’s also a story of self-discovery and self-reliance. Chin is an associate professor of creative nonfiction and journalism at CUNY and writes as the “Urban Forager” for the New York Times. She is a former slam poet and is the editor of the nonfiction essay collection Split: Stories From a Generation Raised on Divorce.

Cosponsored By:
CaseyLand Committee – Everett Casey Nature Reserve
Creative Writing Program
Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)
Link: http://www.lectures.iastate.edu/lecture/34223



Thursday, April 9
8:00 pm – Great Hall, Memorial Union
Alison Bechdel

Drawing Lessons: The Comics of Everyday Life
Alison Bechdel13

Alison Bechdel has a thirty-year career writing, drawing, and self-syndicating the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. That generational chronicle ran regularly in over fifty LGBT publications in North America and the UK. After setting aside Dykes to Watch Out For in 2008, she edited Best Alison Bechdel2American Comics 2011 and published a second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, in 2012. She has drawn comics for Slate, McSweeney’s, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, and Granta, and her work is widely anthologized and translated. She is a 2014 MacArthur Fellow, a five-year grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future. The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their creative activities without obligations.

Cosponsored By:
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Student Services
Design College
Gamma Rho Lambda
Margaret Sloss Women’s Center
Womens’ and Gender Studies
Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)
Link: http://www.lectures.iastate.edu/lecture/32677

Context for why this one is a lecture you don’t want to miss: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test


Many thanks to the following sponsors of the Environmental Imagination Reading Series:

  • MFA Program in Creative Writing & Environment
  • Department of English
  • Writers’ Guild of ISU
  • Department of History
  • Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
  • The Henry A. Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
  • Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)​​