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Writer Walljasper visits Iowa City this week

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | NOVEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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A James Galvin quotation inscribed on the sidewalk of Iowa Avenue serves more than a place where thousands of pedestrians tread every day.

For author Jay Walljasper, the words are an inspiration.

His book All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons, is designed to help people recognize the commons that exist all around them and enrich their lives in ways that they may not immediately realize.

Walljasper will host various conversations with community members during his visit to Iowa City. He will also read from his book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque. All of the events are free and open to the public.

"It's not a heavy political tome; it's full of stories about real people in the real world," Walljasper said. "I made a particular point of not concentrating on the usual glamour spots like New York and San Francisco. This is a book for everybody living everywhere."

The writer wanted to come back to his alma mater because he said he feels that Iowa City has a strong sense of the commons throughout the community and that there are things worth protecting and expanding.

"I hope that I can help local folks recognize how important these kinds of commons are in their lives and for the future of the community," Walljasper said. "There's a public-spiritedness, which you can see in a great Public Library, a lively downtown, campus events that are open to everyone, and a good public transit system for a city of this size."

Steve Clark, a cyclist from the Twin Cities, follows Walljasper's writing because his work appeals to Clark's interests, including bicycling and community building.

"I have been admiring [Walljasper's] work for about 20 years now," Clark said. "He is one of my favorite writers on issues I care about in terms of sustainability. He understands what's going on, and he can write it in a positive way that calls to action and inspires."

For Walljasper, finding his interest in the commons wasn't all that easy. As a writer and former Daily Iowan employee, Walljasper described himself as having "a hopeless case of journalistic ADD."

He finally found a unifying theme after researching the destruction of the Amazon and exploring his curiosity in forró music from Brazil.

The commons was his beat.

"I realized all the stories that excited me flowed from the same source, a deep conviction that people and places thrive when we honor what belongs to everyone," Walljasper said.

Thomas Dean, the senior presidential writer/editor for the Office of the President, believes that the subject of the commons is something that interests the university and Iowa City communities.

He wanted to recruit Walljasper to come to the UI when he began using Walljasper's book as a teaching tool for his class The Good Society.

"Walljasper is a very engaging speaker and I think everyone will enjoy him," Dean said. "I hope that the community comes away with a new perspective and looks at the world in a different way to realize how much we do share and own in common."


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