Book Matters: Tara Bynum in conversation with Ashley Howard at Prairie Lights

Mar 22, 2023

07:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Prairie Lights Books

15 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City, IA 52240

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Join us for a reading and discussion to celebrate Tara Bynum's book, Reading Pleasures. Bynum is assistant professor of English and African American studies at the University of Iowa and a scholar of early African American literary histories before 1800. After the reading, Ashley Howard, assistant professor of history at the UI, will join Bynum for a conversation and Q&A with the audience.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023
7–8:30 p.m.
Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

In the early United States, a Black person committed an act of resistance simply by reading and writing. Yet we overlook that these activities also brought pleasure. Tara A. Bynum tells the compelling stories of four early American writers who expressed feeling good despite living while enslaved or only nominally free. The poet Phillis Wheatley delights in writing letters to a friend. Ministers John Marrant and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw memorialize their love for God. David Walker’s pamphlets ask Black Americans to claim their victory over slavery. Together, their writings reflect the joyous, if messy, humanity inside each of them.

“Sit down, read this book, and become a changed reader, scholar, and human. Sit down, and learn from Tara Bynum about worlds of Black experience—joy, longing, pleasure—beyond the white gaze. Through her brilliant literary research and reading of early African American literature, Bynum achieves the full humanity that a viciously segregated, racialized world denies all of us: some in body, some in understanding and spirit. In so doing, this book exemplifies what the humanities should be all about.”—Joanna Brooks, author of Why We Left: Untold Songs and Stories of America's First Immigrants.

This event is co-sponsored by Prairie Lights. Appetizers and wine will be available.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at