Roxane Gay reading kicks off Mission Creek Festival's literature crawl


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On Roxane Gay’s Twitter account — which features more than 47,210 tweets analyzing Justin Bieber, the Academy Awards, Lifetime movies, and much more — the nonfiction writer, essayist, novelist, and magazine editor describes herself in two sentences:

“I write things. I want a tiny baby elephant.”

Considered by some to be a pioneer in contemporary writing, Gay’s eclectic work and personality will be featured at the first literary event of the eighth-annual Mission Creek Festival on April 2. Gay will read at Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., at 7 p.m. alongside University of Iowa Associate Professor and fellow “experimental” writer John D’Agata.

“They’re like rock ’n’ roll with writers,” said Mission Creek Literature Director Joe Tiefenthaler. “They both work on a different level, working across different genres or just blurring genres. It’s going to really set the tone for the fest.”

Gay said her writing is motivated by “the cultural moment” — exploring and questioning modern issues through a variety of media, from [PANK] Magazine and The Rumpus to her upcoming novel, An Untamed State, and essay collection, Bad Feminist.

“I love finding new ways to make people feel and think,” she said. “I find that injustice and callousness compel me to write and to give a voice to so much that goes unsaid.”

Gay, who attended Mission Creek two years ago, will offer her perspective not only at Tuesday’s reading but also in UI classrooms and at other events throughout the week as a part of the festival’s new Writers-in-Residence program.

“They’re here to meet members of the writing community across all ages,” Tiefenthaler said. “We’re always interested in writers and musicians who can collaborate and cross pollinate with each other — that’s how we want our festival to stand apart.”

D’Agata said Mission Creek also benefits from the collaboration among artists, students, and the larger Iowa City community.

“I think that’s the festival’s bread and butter,” he said. “It’s a few days during the academic year when students are interacting with folks from the community, enjoying the same bands and readers and having conversations. It’s really what makes our town unique, that we can have events like this where we all come together.”

Whether it’s through readings, concerts, or Twitter, Gay said, creative communities such as Mission Creek help nourish cultural appreciation for the arts.

“Anything we can do as creative types to foster a stronger sense of community and share creative work with the world is a step in the right direction,” she said.

UI Nonfiction Writing Program alumnus and festival founder Andre Perry will also read at Prairie Lights on Tuesday, while six Mission Creek musical acts, including William Basinki and Juianna Barwick, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, and the Bernie Worrell Orchestra will perform at locations throughout Iowa City.

What: Roxane Gay and John D’Agata reading
When: 7 p.m. April 2
Where: Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque
Admission: Free

Mestrius Plutarch, “Some Information About the Spartans,” translated by John D'Agata

Roxane Gay, “There is No “E” in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You Or We”

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