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Reading for Ukraine unites literary luminaries against Russia's war

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

The war in Ukraine — and the misery of the millions of Ukrainian refugees — has been top-of-mind since Russian troops invaded February 24, some six weeks ago. In light of these events, the feeling of helplessness seems both close and widespread.

As a show of solidarity, a group of writers ranging from Pulitzer Prize-winner Marilynne Robison and National Book Award-winner Bob Shacochis, as well as several writers from around the country, will hold a reading for Ukraineat 4 p.m. Central Time Monday, April 11 at the Shambaugh House 430 N. Clinton St., Iowa City. The reading is co-sponsored by Prairie Lights Bookstore, the Iowa City, Lviv and Odessa UNESCO Cities of Literature, and the University of Iowa's International Programs. You can register to attend online.

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks to Melnyczuk about how the war in Ukraine informs his work as a writer.

Later, we return to a conversation with oral historian John McKerley, who recounts extraordinary stories of Iowa workers, past and present. His podcast for the University of Iowa Labor Center, "Speaking of Work," dives into these stories and their impact on our state.

The second segment with McKerley originally aired on Nov. 23, 2021.


  • Christopher Merrill, director of the University of Iowa's International Writing Program
  • Askold Melnyczuk, author of "What is Told," "Ambassador of the Dead," "House of Widows" and "Excerpt from Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature"; professor at U of Massachusetts at Boston
  • John McKerley, oral historian, University of Iowa Labor Center and host of the "Speaking of Work" podcast
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa