Iowa City Book Festival: Tameka Cage Conley and Derek Nnuro
Iowa City Book Festival
Writers' Workshop graduates Tameka Cage Conley and Derek Nnuro present, "The Reclamation Workshop: Our Mothers As Homeland"
This performance workshop features two writers, one African and the other African American, in direct conversation with each other, interrogating themes of family, heartbreak, class, and childhood. Anchored in the maternal audacity of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Derek Nnuro and Tameka Cage Conley will perform a series of letters written to each other about their own maternal stories. The matriarchal thread is of particular interest to both writer-performers, as Nnuro’s Ashanti culture is matriarchal, and Cage Conley’s manifested as such as well. By necessity, the paternal has a heartbeat in these letters, for how can the maternal be explored completely separate from the paternal? This performance is culled from a unique socio-political moment in the US, in which questions arise constantly about how “an American” is defined and how we might collectively and individually feel about our country—as homeland and as motherland—is challenged. After the performance, workshop attendants will be invited to delve into their own origins, histories, and turbulence along the way, and write about them in epistolary form.
Tameka Cage Conley, PhD, is a literary artist who writes fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and librettos. At the Writers' Workshop she was a recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship and a Graduate Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Callaloo, African American Review, and is forthcoming in the Virginia Quarterly Review. She has received scholarships and fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her libretto, RISE, premiered at the AME Metropolitan Church in Washington, D.C., in 2015, and she read parts of the libretto dedicated to Congressman John Lewis, to the congressman in his office on Capitol Hill later that year. She currently holds the Provost Postgraduate Visiting Writer Fellowship in Fiction and is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Iowa, where she teaches courses in advanced fiction writing. She is at work on her first novel which chronicles the untimely, racist deaths of African-American men in Shreveport, Louisiana over six decades.
Derek Nnuro is a Ghanaian-American fiction writer based in Iowa City. He is a graduate of the fiction program at the Workshop, where he was a recipient of the Meta Rosenberg Memorial Fellowship and a Teaching Writing Fellowship. He was awarded the Robert J. Schulze Fellowship in 2016 and is a recipient of a fellowship from the Ragdale Foundation. He is working on an untitled novel set in Ghana, West Africa; Houston, Texas; and Alexandria, Virginia. He has taught novel writing at the University of Iowa.