Established in 2003, the All Iowa Reads program is one of the first projects to be provided by the Iowa Center for the Book. Tweet with us about #AllIowaReads15
The purpose of All Iowa Reads is to foster a sense of unity through reading. We encourage Iowans statewide to come together in their communities to read and talk about a single book title in the same year. Libraries, book clubs, schools and other local organizations are encouraged to sponsor discussions of the title. Please use this site for information as you read and study the book. We offer a wealth of materials including book reviews. discussion questions, and publicity materials to help you prepare successful discussions.
If you missed the All Iowa Reads Webinar on January 21, which included an-depth exchange between Susan Craig, Director of the Iowa City Public Library, and George Minot, Professor of English at Kirkwood Community College, summarizing the story, introducing the characters, and identifying topics and themes, you can access a recording here.”
The 2015 selection is "My Name is Mary Sutter" by Robin Oliveira
Robin Oliveira's stunning Civil War epic is about a young headstrong midwife determined to become a surgeon striving to overcome the prejudices against women in medicine. Fully drawn characters, family conflicts, the politics of war, and achieving humane medical care in the aftermath of violence are some of themes that will be at the center discussions among hundreds of Iowans during 2015.
"In the last year marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, it’s good to step back from accounts of politics and battles to be reminded of the important role women played during the war despite the obstacles they had to overcome to make their contributions. Many Iowa women, most notably Annie Wittenmyer and the women she recruited and supervised, made their own significant contributions during the war, so Iowans will have much to talk about in response to this engaging and enlightening fictional portrayal of a remarkable woman’s experiences during the Civil War era." said Marv Bergman, Annals of Iowa Editor and All Iowa Reads Committee member.
On learning of the award, Oliveira said, "I am beyond delighted and thrilled to hear this wonderful news! Thank you for choosing My Name is Mary Sutter. It is an extraordinary honor to join the ranks of your previous authors."
From the book's cover: "In this stunning first novel, Mary Sutter is a brilliant, headstrong midwife from Albany, New York, who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Determined to overcome the prejudices against women in medicine--and eager to run away from her recent heartbreak-- Mary leaves home and travels to Washington, D.C. to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of William Stipp and James Blevens-two surgeons who fall unwittingly in love with Mary's courage, will, and stubbornness in the face of suffering-and resisting her mother's pleas to return home to help with the birth of her twin sister's baby, Mary pursues her medical career in the desperately overwhelmed hospitals of the capital.
Like Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Robert Hicks's The Widow of the South, My Name Is Mary Sutter powerfully evokes the atmosphere of the period. Rich with historical detail (including marvelous depictions of Lincoln, Dorothea Dix, General McClellan, and John Hay among others), and full of the tragedies and challenges of wartime, My Name Is Mary Sutter is an exceptional novel. And in Mary herself, Robin Oliveira has created a truly unforgettable heroine whose unwavering determination and vulnerability will resonate with readers everywhere."
My Name Is Mary Sutter received the 2011 Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the 2010 American Historical Fiction Honorable Mention from the Langum Charitable Trust. Oliveira's short fiction and essays have appeared in Euphony and Numero Cinq. She is the former fiction editor at the literary magazine upstreet and a former assistant editor at Narrative Magazine. Her new novel is I Always Loved You, which relates the complex and fascinating relationship between painters Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.
Past AIR Books:
- 2014. Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman
- 2013. The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
- 2012. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
- 2011. Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
- 2010. Driftless by David Rhodes
- 2009. The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown
- 2008. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
- 2007. Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio by Jeffrey Kluger
- 2006. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
- 2005. The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
- 2004. Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken
- 2003. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
How All Iowa Reads is chosen
The All Iowa Reads Committee welcomes, but does not solicit nominations. Members of the Committee read widely, seeking books with broad appeal. In a series of meetings, members discuss possibilities that meet the criteria listed below. The list is narrowed to approximately five titles which are read by all members. Members provide their honest impressions, independent of outside influence, and the final selection is made by consensus.
Criteria used to select the All Iowa Reads title
The AIR book must:
- Raise universal social issues relevant to Iowans
- Lend itself to sustained, spirited and in-depth discussion
- Be accessible to adults and high school aged youth
- Be available by January 1st of the selection year in the following formats:
- unabridged audio
- and either large print or downloadable eBook format that is available for purchase and circulation by public libraries*
It is desirable, but not required, that the book:
- have an Iowa or Midwest connection
- is a recent publication that has not been widely read
*In the event that the book is not available in large print, the Committee will request that the publisher make it available in LP.
For more information, contact the Coordinator.