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10 Adolescent books to read at Special Collections & Archives

The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant Kaylee Swinford

Recognized as a powerful force, the Young Adult genre of fiction has taken the literary world by storm. With cultural phenomena like Twilight, The Hunger Games, and almost any book by John Green, it is difficult to imagine a time when there wasn’t YA. Developing near the mid-20th century, adolescent fiction originally primarily consisted of “problem novels”, sports, and romance. It would not be long, though, before innovation and experimentation worked its way into the genre with authors such as S.E. Hinton and her novel, The Outsiders. These novels dove into the mature, contemplative, and serious themes of youth.

A transformative genre, Young Adult fiction has found itself welcoming all sorts of writing that perhaps wouldn’t have been welcomed elsewhere. Here, writers explore fantasy, sci-fi, romance, horror, and more; sometimes all in the same book! The beauty of the genre is the knack for connecting to realistic themes, emotions, and tackling difficult problems. Here readers can often find relatable protagonists going through tribulations of their own, often overcoming these obstacles. Though once minimized by many, the YA genre is certainly not one to be dismissed.

Highlighted are 10 adolescent novels from our collection. Spanning over 80 years, each novel gives us a glimpse of popular reading at the time. Even though these books focused on pertinent issues of their day and age, they still portray emotions, experiences, and similar conflicts that are important to the youth of today.

1. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter (PZ5.A365 L3 1928)

Born in Cedar Falls, Iowa in 1881 to pioneering parents, Bess Streeter found herself writing stories of the Heartland and pioneer history, reflecting on the environment of her childhood.A Lantern in Her Hand follows protagonist Abbie Deal (modeled after Bess’ mother) who travels by covered wagon to the Midwest. Wildly popular with teenagers, Bess Streeter’s books excelled at conveying strength in everyday things and portraying an accurate depiction of early frontier life.

2.Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (PZ5.B6314 T5 1981)

Beloved author Judy Blume is a household name with the ever-timely novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Blume excels at touching on themes young adults and children can relate to, with Tiger Eyes being a moving example. Reflecting on the death of her father, Judy poured her emotions into protagonist Davey, who also loses her father in a violent attack at a gas station in Atlantic City. Frequently challenged and even banned for teenage depression, mild sex attitudes, religious debates, and underage drinking, Judy affirms the importance of writing realistic experiences for teenagers and the value of writing honestly. Though faced with challenges, Tiger Eyes resonated with many adolescents, including Judy’s son, prompting him to write a screenplay with his mother and make a film released in 2013.  

3. Bonnie Jo, Go Home by Jeannette Eyerly (PZ5.E98 B65 1972) 

Acclaimed for her sensitivity, Jeannette Eyerly solidifies herself as a pioneer in dealing with controversial topics in novels with sympathy and understanding. Bonnie Jo, Go Home follows the pregnant, sixteen-year-old titular character on a trip to New York City seeking an abortion. According to Roger Sutton, editor in chief of Horn Book Publications, despite the apprehension and attempts at challenging the novel, this story proved to be an example of what “teenage girls were actually reading, despite what their teachers said.”  

4. Breaktime by Aidan Chambers (PZ5.C375 B7 1978) 

Breaktime centers on protagonist Ditto on a journey to sort out his life. Literature obsessed, Ditto is searching for meaning and connection between the fiction he reads to the life he sees. Breaktime has been heralded for its use of postmodernist conventions that are approachable to a young adult audience.  


5. Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan (PZ5.D912 D3 1979) 

Dubbed the “Queen of Teen Thrillers”, Lois Duncan is considered a pioneering figure in YA fiction, particularly in genres of horror, thriller, and suspense. One shining example of this can be found in, Daughters of Eve. This novel centers on a group of high school girls in a small town who are convinced by a teacher that the men in their life are oppressing them, and they should seek vengeance. Due to themes of sexual assault, feminism, and domestic violence, this book was banned in several states.  

6. Claire Ambler by Booth Tarkington (PZ5.T1755 C44 1928) 

Known for depicting characters living a carefree bliss, Booth Tarkington’s Claire Ambler follows the titular character through her life as a flapper girl from her teens to her mid-twenties in the “Roaring Twenties”. A 1928 Atlantic Monthly review from R.M. Gay suggests Booth has “never written better” and “never with such precision” than in Claire Ambler.  


7. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (PZ5.W377 D3 1912) 

The widely adapted novel, Daddy Long Legs follows Jerusha “Judy” Abbott as she leaves an orphanage and is sent to college by a benefactor whom she has never seen. Though predating the adolescent fiction genre, Webster’s 1912 novel was considered a “college girl” book, a type of novel featuring a young protagonist dealing with post-high-school concerns like college, career, and marriage. The story has been adapted into stage musicals, countless films from around the world, and even an anime serial. 

8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles (PZ5.K757 S4 1960a) 

In this American classic, John Knowles explores the darker side of adolescence and loss of innocence for the central character, Phineas, during his time at boarding school. Set against the backdrop of World War II, themes of morality, patriotism, and trauma are explored, heralding this novel as significant for adolescents and one certainly worth reading.  

9. Miriam by Aimée Sommerfelt, translated by Pat Shaw Iversen (PZ5.S6956 M5713 1963) 

Aimée Sommerfelt was a Norwegian writer concerned with social justice, often placing protagonists in difficult circumstances and settings, like poverty and wartime. The novel Miriam centers on two teen girls living in Nazi-occupied Norway during World War II. Throughout the novel they are forced to face the reality of prejudice and the impacts it can have on those in a variety of circumstances.  


10. Face the Dragon by Joyce Sweeney (PZ5.S975 F33 1992) 

I will admit, I wanted to feature this book primarily for the cover – though after looking into it, a protagonist who is influenced by Beowulf really sealed the deal. Eric is struggling in high school; the pressures of relationships and academics are crushing him. Reminded of the heroic poem Beowulf, Eric learns to “face the dragon,” his arrogant debate teacher, Mr. Drake. Author Joyce Sweeney, a prior teacher of 20 years, was encouraged to write stories for kids and teens with themes they can actually relate to. Marking it as a representative novel for youth, Face the Dragon touches on topics like queer identity, disordered eating, and ableism.  

Come check out these and other YA books at Special Collections & Archives!

Beauty in Breathing: An Exhibit

The following was written by Rich Dana, Sackner Archive Project Coordinator

Marvin and Ruth Sackner were the world’s foremost collectors of “visual poetry,” artwork that combines visual elements and text. Dr. Sackner was also an internationally respected pulmonologist and inventor of many medical devices. In 1992, the Sackners created a unique exhibition of work by an international selection of artists entitled The Beauty in Breathing,  as a special event at the annual meeting of The American Lung Association & American Thoracic Society.

Visual poetry is, among many things, the depiction of the sounds made by the air moving from our lungs and across our vocal cords. It’s not surprising then, that breath is one of the common themes found in the Sackner’s vast collection of artists’ books, images, and 3D objects.

“It was a scientific meeting,” recalled Dr. Sackner in a previous interview. “And in the middle of it, here is this exhibition. A lot of people got exposed to ‘art and poetry’ for the first time. It was really great fun to observe them. A lot of doctors aren’t necessarily art-inclined, but here, over a thousand people got to see this exhibit over a three-day period.”

Presented in the UIHC exhibit is a small selection of the 167 works included in The Beauty in Breathing show,  but the other works, along with copies of the exhibit catalog, original photographs from the event, and the Sackners’ curatorial records are all part of Dr. Sackner’s donation to the University of Iowa Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives.

“Concrete Poetry conveys a visual image to the reader through the arrangement of words or typefaces on the page; there may or may not be additional meanings to the poem in the abstract sense which relate to its content as in a conventional poem. Visual poetry is a form of concrete poetry that integrates visual imagery with the text.” —Dr. Marvin Sackner

The Beauty in Breathing: Selections from The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry will be on display through this fall through January 24th at the UIHC John Colloton Pavillion, located on the 6th floor, as part of their Project Art initiative. The exhibit is curated by Rich Dana, Sackner Archive Project Coordinator.

Welcome Rachel Poppen, new collections archivist

We are pleased to welcome Rachel Poppen as our new collections archivist in Special Collections and Archives. 

Rachel, a young woman with long blonde hair, stands in front of grey hollinger boxes
Rachel Poppen

Rachel joined the department in mid-July. Raised in Sibley, Iowa, Rachel received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from the University of Iowa. She then went on to receive her Master of Science in Information Science from the University of Texas at Austin in spring 2023. Rachel is already busy digging into the University Archives.

When asked about what excites her about this position Rachel stated, “I am looking forward to interacting with the history of the University and helping preserve the historic events happening now for future generations.” As an archivist, she looks forward to connecting people and records of the past to people looking for information in the present. 

When away from work, Rachel enjoys exploring state and national parks, cooking new recipes (she’s going to love our Szathmary collection), and solving puzzles.

In Memory of Kirby Congdon, an Unsung Hero of American Poetry

The following is written by Rich Dana, Sackner Archive Project Coordinator Librarian

Black and white photo of a young man sitting in a chair, wearing all leather and sunglasses
Image of Congdon in 1966 from issue of Juggernaut, Sackner Archive

On June 3, 98-year-old Kirby Congdon passed away in Key West, Florida, a town that had recognized him as its first poet laureate. Although the arts community of Key West understood the importance of Congdon and his work, much of the rest of America’s literary establishment is yet to recognize him.

According to his obituary, he was born in Pennsylvania in 1924 and was drafted at age 19, serving with valor as an Army sharpshooter in Europe during WWII.  “At a time when the United States government and its military were enacting criminalizing edicts against gay service personnel, Kirby fought Nazi snipers to defend and expand the democratic freedoms that he would, only by virtue of his longevity, see come to fruition 70 years later with the establishment of equal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ citizens, such as gay marriage.”

With the help of the GI Bill, Kirby attended Columbia University where he studied philosophy and literature, earning a Bachelors degree… despite his rebellious nature. During this time in New York City, he became part of the Beat poetry scene, along with Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Kerouac. There he gained notoriety as both a writer and indie publisher as part of the “Mimeograph Revolution.”

Cover page of Juggernaut by Kirby Congdon
Cover page of Juggernaut, Sackner Archive

Stunningly handsome, a motorcycle enthusiast and leather fetishist, Kirby was a flamboyant and fearless gay man during a time when homosexual activity was still illegal and most of his beatnik compatriots opted  to seek refuge in tweedy intellectualism and academia. Although he was published in the New York Times and Christian Science Monitor, his own Interim Books imprint and ground-breaking publication Magazine (a storehouse for ammunition) published work that was cutting-edge, sexy, and transgressive.

Later in life, Congdon divided his time between Key West and Fire Island, New York. His works included Aipotu (1998), Poems from Fire Island Pines and Key West (1999), Novels, prose poems of people, Old Mystic, Connecticut Sixty-five Years Ago (2003), and Selected Poems & Prose Poems (2006). His work has been anthologized in Gay Roots (1991) and Inside the Outside (2006). (Source: The Poetry Foundation)

He is survived by his husband, the art critic, Darren Jones.

Works by Kirby Congdon from The Ruth And Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry can be found at UI Special Collections.

Professional Attention: The World of Labor

The following is written by Matrice Young, student life archivist and curator of Professional Attention: The World of Labor. 

Extra Extra! Read all about it!
Jobs in America are varied and should be valued!
Whether it be workin’ the field, fixing railroads,
tightening locs or crocheting braids.
Be it acrobatics, magic, music, or ballet.
Librarians, nurses, comic artists, lecturers—No,
All professions deserve praise!

– Poem written by curator Matrice Young

From 2021-2023, before my current job as Student Life Archivist, I worked as an Olson Graduate Research Assistant for University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections and Archives. This position allowed me to learn by hands on experience about several aspects of special collections librarianship. For two years I provided reference services, assisted with instruction, processed collections and worked on descriptive language projects. As a culmination of my time as Olson Graduate, I curated an exhibit that is an homage to labor in the United States. While the exhibit does not feature everyone, it does shine a spotlight on the importance of several different professions, providing samples of our work force that we think about in relation to labor, and the ones we do not. I’ve included samples of our work force that we think about in relation to labor and ones we do not.

This exhibit features nurses, librarians, Black hairstylists, farmers, aviators, railroad workers, comic book creators, and different types of performance artists. However, because of space and material constraints, I was unable to fit all of these stories. While the exhibit only allows so much to be displayed, more stories of American workers can be found in Iowa Labor History Oral Project (ILHOP)!. You can also hear recordings from the project on the Iowa Digital Library.

I hope that from this exhibit people understand that labor is not just physical, but also mental and emotional. I want people to see that all jobs are valuable and that they have more to them than we may see on the surface. Below are some highlights from the exhibit.


Dora MacKay was a Black hairstylist from Des Moines who was part of the first graduating class of Crescent School of Beauty Culture. Beauty schools today still do not spend much time on Black hair, and Black women are often turned away from beauty shops because of lack of knowledge on how to do Black hair.

In my undergraduate career, I had to travel over 43 miles to find someone who could do my hair. In Iowa City, I still frequently go up to Cedar Rapids to find someone to do my hair. Black hair typically is tighter coiled and requires more to take care of it, and Black hair does not operate the same as loosely textured hair. You have to consider everything from protecting it at night to using different creams and oils to promote hair health and growth. 

Dora learned from Pauline Humphrey, the first Black woman to open a beauty shop for Black women in Iowa. Pauline was denied business loans, property rentals, and rejected from suppliers because of her race. She created Crescent School of Beauty Culture in 1939 after opening the first Black Beauty shop in Iowa in 1935. The racism that Humphrey and MacKay faced in creating and maintaining shops and schools to teach their hair cultures and do their own hair is its own form of labor, an emotional and mental one, not including carpal tunnel and back pain as physical pains that come with the profession.

Image of Helen Knievel during her retirement party, IWA0718

Helen Knievel was a rural librarian. She grew up on a farm in Cherokee County, Iowa and made sure to carry the voices of the individuals from her communities into her later work. She made sure that the farming and rural area communities knew what the library could do for them, including resource guides on fixing machinery and growing certain crops. She also connected with other small-town libraries to further the outreach that they could provide for their communities as a whole.

Alonzo Moore, Redpath Chautauqua Bureau Records MsC0150

Alonzo Moore was a Black Moroccan magician who started out as an apprentice beneath the great magician Edward Maro, Moore studied magic for 15 years before setting out on his own. At the time (early 1900s) he was known as the only Black magician in the world, and his performances were a mixture of studies “in the history of magic in the land of his ancestors” and brought “forgotten mysteries” to the Americas.

Andre Drew, Redpath Chautauqua Bureau Records, MsC0150

Andre Drew at 16 years old was hailed as one of the top Black tap-ballet dancers in the United States. Drew began to dance almost as early as he began to walk, studying acrobatic and tap dancing at the age of 5 under Essie Marie, and continued his studies. After successful solo performances in tap and Indian interpretive dance, Drew decided to concentrate on ballet under William Sena at the Philadelphia La Scala Opera Company, and carved his way as a Black dancer in the world of ballet.

Come visit the exhibit in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room on the 3rd floor of the Main Library! View the different forms of labor and share your appreciation for all of the workers you know.

Welcome Matrice Young, new student life archivist

We are happy to welcome Matrice Young as our new student life archivist in Special Collections and Archives.

Young Black woman in yellow shirt in front of a grey wall
Matrice Young

Matrice joined the Libraries at the beginning of summer. Hailing from Chicago, Matrice received her BA in creative writing with minors in educational studies and Africana. She received her MA in Library and Information Science from University of Iowa in May 2023. After spending two years working as the Olson Research Assistant in Special Collections and Archives, Matrice dove into her new role with the University Archives, ready to make connections with student groups on campus.

When thinking about this position, Matrice states that she looks forward to making sure that student groups, particularly and especially marginalized ones, continue to be seen, heard, and given the historical spotlight they deserve. “I’m looking forward to making the connections and processing the collections of groups that we don’t have yet and the ones we do! I want people to know that their stories and their groups and organizations matter, and I want to be part of making sure that we continue to record that.”

Away from work Matrice enjoys playing a variety of games, from video to board to card. She enjoys drawing, writing, and embroidery, while also watching horror/thriller movies. Spending time with her loved ones, including an adorable cat named Melvin, is also important to Matrice. And of course, she loves reading a good book!

Mary Shelley’s Greek Odyssey

The following is written by graduate student worker Sydnee Brown

It is usually a shock when we realize that famous historical figures and celebrities struggle with everyday things like chores or math and language homework. Well, what if we told you that the iconic Mary Shelley also struggled with learning a new language?

Mary Shelley, “The Mother of Sci-Fi” and renowned author of Frankenstein, was born in 1797 to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, who were both known political philosophers in the latter half of the 18th century and early 19th century (de Bruin-Molé). Shelley, unfortunately, did not get to know her mother, as Wollstonecraft died of puerperal fever merely eleven days after giving birth. Godwin then took up the task of raising his and Wollstonecraft’s daughter, as well as Shelley’s five other siblings—all of whom were either illegitimate or siblings through marriage (Bennett).

Shelley was educated early on at both a dame-school as well as a short spell with Miss Caroline Petman at her school for daughters of dissenters. However, her primary educator was her father who prioritized his children’s education highly. Godwin nurtured the imaginative minds of his children, and he gave Shelley the skillset and conviction to be able to instigate change as an activist. He provided Shelley a well-rounded education in history, mythology, and literature—including the Bible. Not only was Shelley educated in English literature, but she was also tutored in several other languages, being fluent in both Italian and French, as well as Latin, Greek, and some Spanish. It has been said that, when she married Percy Bysshe Shelley, he tutored her in both Latin and Greek as well (Bennett).

Inside page of Shelley's Greek notebook
Inside look into Shelley’s Greek notebook

As a scholar in classical languages and mythology, it is no surprise that Shelley would have read from classical authors such as Homer. In the Leigh Hunt collection where we have an assortment of books and manuscripts by and about English writer James Henry Leigh Hunt, we have one of Shelley’s notebooks where she is working through translations in Ancient Greek (Leigh Hunt Collection, Ms S54G). In this notebook, Shelley is reading Homer’s Odyssey and working through a translation. She wrote down names of significant characters early on—Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus—and other line translations indicate that she was working through Book I, lines 114-387 (Bowers 514). This manuscript of Shelley’s has received very little critical attention—Will Bowers’ 2017 article appears to be the only comprehensive study done about the notebook.

While the majority of this notebook is dedicated to Shelley’s translations of Homer, there are also two pages containing an Italian transcription of Marco Lastri’s L’osservatore fiorentino sugli edifizi della sua patria (3rd edition 1821), specifically the section where he quotes Bendetto Varchi’s Storia fiorentino (Bowers 515). Though these transcriptions are interesting, Shelley’s Homer deserves a bit more scrutiny.

According to Bowers’ research, this notebook can be dated back to Shelley’s stay at Pisa from 1820-1822, where one of her primary tasks was to learn Greek. If she was dedicating two years of her life to the study of Ancient Greek, we can assume that she might not have been proficient in the language at this time.

close up of Greek text in Mary Shelley's hand
Mary Shelley’s Greek notes

Looking at her notebook, she is working her way through the text as though she is either a beginner or, at the very least, she is struggling with Homer’s dialect. The pages of this notebook are filled with basic Greek words such as ουκ (not), παντας (all), γαρ (for), and διος (god/godlike). This vocabulary is taught to beginner Greek students early on, so it would not be a stretch to assume that Shelley was either a novice or struggling. However, it appears that she becomes more comfortable as she moves through the translations, only writing down difficult vocabulary or working through their grammatical peculiarities.

Along with her vocabulary glosses, Shelley also works through sentence structure in order to translate both full and partial lines of the Greek. She parses verbs and nouns to see how they grammatically work together in the sentence, such as “μεμνησκο a.2.mid part. n.s.f. remembering” in order to fully translate the sentence, “for I desire such ahead – remembring always.” From this moment, it is clear that she is attempting to reinforce grammatical concepts and better understand Homer’s Greek.

Shelley’s translation process throughout the notebook remains much the same, and it is intriguing to watch her learn and grow from a language-learning perspective. From her notes, she seems to be reinforcing her vocabulary and grammar knowledge, and she is consistent with her methods. While Mary Shelley might have been the master and mother of sci-fi, it doesn’t look like she was a master of Greek—at least, not yet.

Works Cited:

Bennett, Betty T. “Shelley [née Godwin], Mary Wollstonecraft (1797–1851), writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 29. Oxford University Press. Date of access 4 Mar. 2023,

Bowers, Will. “On First Looking into Mary Shelley’s Homer.” The Review of English Studies, vol. 69, no. 290, 2017, pp. 510-531.

de Bruin-Molé, Megen. “‘Hail, Mary, the Mother of Science Fiction’: Popular Fictionalisations of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in Film and Television, 1935–2018.” Science Fiction Film & Television, vol. 11, no. 2, June 2018, pp. 233–55. (Crossref),

UIowa Hearts Richard Kerber

The following is written by graduate student and Special Collections student worker Emily Schartz

White AED metal box with red defibrillator
Automated External Defibrillator found at Main Library, University of Iowa

To wrap up American Heart Health Month, we’re remembering University of Iowa professor, cardiologist, and researcher Richard Kerber (1939-2016). If you have noticed the white AED (Automated External Defibrillator) boxes around, you have seen Kerber’s long-lasting impact on our campus and community. Kerber was a pioneer in Echocardiography and CPR research, as well as a driving force in expanding public defibrillation programs.

Richard Kerber was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1939. He completed an undergrad degree in anthropology at Columbia 1960 and in June of that same year married Dr. Linda Kaufman Kerber, now retired professor of history. He went on to complete medical school at New York University, graduating with his medical degree in 1964.

After school, Kerber joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps and worked in both a mobile Army surgical hospital and a base hospital in Vietnam between 1967 and 1968. He was awarded the Bronze Star in 1968 for his service. After completing his medical education with a cardiology fellowship at Stanford University, Kerber joined the University of Iowa in 1971. He remained at the University of Iowa for the rest of his career.

At Iowa Kerber took on many roles, serving as Director of Echocardiography, as well as Associate Director of the Division of Cardiovascular medicine, from 1983-2008 and Interim Director from 2009-2012. He helped establish the CPR training program for UI Hospital staff and faculty and served on task forces and committees that established the UI Hospital’s Code Blue and CPR guidelines and policies.

Kerber standing with 5 Black Students in classroom
Kerber with students from the Short-term Minority Student Research Training Summer Program

Outside of the University of Iowa, Kerber remained involved in Echocardiography and CPR research. He served as the 11th President of the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) from 1997-1999 and worked closely with colleagues in the American Heart Association (AHA), serving as chair of the AHA’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee. His work with these organizations and taskforces helped establish the standards used to train laypeople in CPR beyond the University of Iowa.

A well-loved professor and a dedicated researcher, Kerber published more than 250 articles as well as many book chapters and abstracts over the course of his career. He was in charge of the Cardiology Fellowship Program and mentored students participating in the Short-term Minority Student Research Training Summer Program for many years.

Though he gave many lectures over the course of his time at Iowa, he is perhaps best remembered for his “Deconstructing the Body: Medical Imaging, Medical Art and the Art of Medicine,” where he examined depictions of the body in art throughout history. You can certainly sense his sense of humor from some of the art he chose to include.

Kerber had many interests outside of academics. He is remembered as a successful clarinet player and participated in orchestras and chamber groups. He was also an avid cyclist and rode in RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) multiple times.

In 2017, the Richard E. Kerber HeartSafe Initiative was launched in memory of Kerber with the goal of expanding CPR and AED training for University of Iowa faculty and staff in non-medical buildings. In 2019, inspired by the HeartSafe Intitiative, the Rotary-Kerber HeartSafe Community Campaign was launched to expand community-member training in CPR and AED use in Iowa City and Coralville. These initiatives have certainly had an impact, Johnson County was just recognized as a HeartSafe Community by the Citizen CPR Foundation in January of this year and AEDs can be found in buildings all across campus.

If you’re curious, you can find a current map of public access AEDs on the University of Iowa’s campus right here.


Dr. Richard E. Kerber, Rotary-Kerber HeartSafe Community Campaign

In Memoriam: Richard E. Kerber, MD (1939–2016), The Texas Heart Institute Journal

Richard E. Kerber, MD, 1939–2016, JAHA

Richard E. Kerber, M.D., Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association

Richard E. Kerber—A pioneer in echocardiography and emergency cardiovascular care, Resuscitation

Richard Kerber Obituary, Lensing Funeral Home

Saving lives: Johnson County program sends alerts to trained laypeople to respond to cardiac arrest cases, The Gazette, January 15, 2023

UI memorializes renowned cardiologist Richard Kerber with lifesaving program, IowaNow

10 Black Poets to check out in Special Collections & Archives

The following was written by academic outreach coordinator Kathryn Reuter

Reading poetry by Black authors is a great way to celebrate Black History Month! We searched through Special Collections and Archives to find materials from Black poets, some who are familiar to us, and some less so. It was tough to limit ourselves to just 10 poets to highlight, but we hope the list below provides some inspiration for your next visit to our reading room. 

You can see some of these books of poetry yourself at our Black Poetry Pop-up on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Group Area D of the Main Library (1st floor, across from Food for Thought Café). Stop by the pop-up to make some poetry of your own! We will have supplies for cut and paste and blackout poetry. 

1.The Last Poets 

First on our list is the poetry and music collective The Last Poets. Originally founded in Harlem, New York, in 1968, the group has since experienced several iterations with different members. Music historians and critics consider The Last Poets to be the forefathers of hip-hop because of their groundbreaking spoken word poetry and protest raps. Of their founding, Abiodun Oyewole writes, “The Last Poets were born on May 19, 1968/ In Mount Morris Park in Harlem, New York/ It was a birthday celebration in memory/ in honor of Malcolm X/ The Last Poets were on a mission/ we became the voices of the East wind/ blowing away the West with our sound/ The Last Poets, men who knew/ in their youth the truth must be told/ the lies must be revealed/ and we got to be sassy and funky and sincere/ about it” (from the poem “Invocation”). The pamphlet Selected Poems: The Last Poets was printed in 1993 and is part of the Andrew William “Sunfrog” Smith Collection of Alternative Publications. The back cover is inscribed to Sunfrog by Last Poets Umar Bin Hassan, Baba Donn Babatunde, and Abiodun Oyewole.  

2. Gwendolyn Brooks 

Born in 1917, Gwendolyn Brooks published her first poem at the age of 13 and would go on to have multiple pieces published in the African-American newspaper The Chicago Defender. A Street in Bronzeville (1945) was her first book of poetry, it celebrates the everyday people living on Chicago’s South Side. One of the copies held in Special Collections is inscribed by Brooks to Paul Engle, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, who praised the book in a review for the Chicago Tribune. Found in Special Collection’s second copy of A Street in Bronzeville is a photograph of Gwendolyn Brooks, her husband Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr., and their son Henry Lowington Blakely III, dated to 1945. Because the handwriting on the back of the photograph matches Gwendolyn Brooks’ inscription to Paul Engle, we believe this family photo was labeled by the author herself, and perhaps tucked into the book before giving it to a friend.  

Inside cover of dissertation
For my people. Margaret Walker. Theses/ Dissertations T1940 .W18


3. Margaret Walker 

Like Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker was an influential poet of the Chicago Black Renaissance. Walker is also a two-time graduate of the University of Iowa. You can visit her 1940 master’s thesis, a poetry collection titled For My People, in the University Archives. With this volume of poetry, Walker won the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. While a master’s degree student at the University of Iowa, Walker was roommates with artist Elizabeth Catlett. In 1992, the two old roommates collaborated to produce an illustrated edition of For My People. Catlett’s prints from this work are held at the Stanley Museum of Art, and you can view them on the Iowa Digital Library. Margaret Walker returned to the University of Iowa to earn her PhD in 1965. For her dissertation, she submitted her first completed draft of her acclaimed novel Jubilee 

title page of Phillis Wheatley
Memoir and poems of Phillis Wheatley PS 866. W5 1834


4. Phillis Wheatley 

In 1773, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American author to publish a volume of poetry. Born in West Africa, Wheatley was kidnapped and sold by slave traders. The Boston merchant John Wheatley bought her as a slave for his wife and the couple renamed the young girl. In the Wheatley household Phillis received tutoring in reading and writing – she wrote her first poem at the age of 14. Not finding publishers in New England willing to support her writing, Wheatley traveled to London where her collection Poems on Various Subject was published. Special Collections and Archives holds an issue of this volume, printed in 1834, which also includes a memoir of Wheatley written by Margaretta Matilda Odell.  

5. Amira Baraka 

Born Everett LeRoi Jones (in Newark, New Jersey, in 1934) Baraka changed his name to Amiri Bakraka after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965. The same year, Baraka founded the Black Arts Repertory Theater in Harlem, New York, effectively sparking the Black Arts Movement. Baraka wrote in multiple genres, penning poems, plays, and essays. Baraka’s influence as an artist, activist, and teacher cannot be overstated. Special Collections and Archives houses two inscribed volumes of Baraka’s poetry [Selected Plays and Prose of Amiri Baraka/ LeRoi Jones (1979) and The Sidney Poet Heroical, in 29 Scenes (1979)] – as well as a sampling of poems stapled together in a pamphlet titled Black Art. Printed in 1966, this pamphlet came to the University of Iowa through the collection of artist Lil Picard.   

6. Langston Hughes 

Like Baraka, Langston Hughes was a writer who excelled in multiple forms. Considered a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes’ poems such as “Harlem” (also known as “A Dream Deferred”) and “I, Too” are iconic pieces of American poetry. We hold a number of Langston Hughes publications in Special Collections & Archives, but one of our favorites is this first edition of Shakespeare in Harlem, inscribed by the author to his friend Lee Crowe.  


Brown and yellow cover of Ten Poems book
Ten Poems by Rita Dove (PS3554.O87 A17 1977 )

7. Rita Dove 

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa in 1977. She was U.S. Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995. Pictured here is Dove’s collection Ten Poems, of which approximately 200 copies were printed by hand in Lisbon, Iowa, at Penumbra Press in 1977.  


Brown/tan cover with word Cane on it
Copy of Cane published in 2000 ( FOLIO PS3539.058 C3 2000)

8. Jean Toomer  

Jean Toomer (born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in 1894, Washington, D.C.) might have objected to being on this list of Black poets because he resisted racial categorization and identified simply as “American”. Of mixed-raced ancestry, Toomer attended both segregated Black schools and all-white schools throughout his education. In 1921, he taught at an agricultural college in Georgia – his experiences there inspired him to start writing a series of vignettes that would be published as Cane in 1923. The novel has a non-traditional structure, combining poems and short stories about different characters. The copy of Cane seen here was published in 2000, it contains woodcuts by the artist Martin Puryear. Jean Toomer’s archival papers are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale, and some of the collection has been digitized, which you can browse here.   


Red cover of book with elephant and bird, palm tree and two people next to tree
The Nature of Things by Frederick Tillis (Iowa Authors Collection)

9. Frederick Tillis  

Perhaps best known as a composer and jazz musician, Frederick Tillis (1930-2020) was also a prolific poet. He earned both his MA and PhD in music composition from the University of Iowa. You can find his dissertation (Quartet for flute, clarinet, bassoon and cello) in the University Archives and a number of his poetry books in our Iowa Authors collection.  


Black and white photo collage of Black Americans
Book jacket for Re:Creation by Nikki Giovanni (PS3557.I55 R4)

 10. Nikki Giovanni  

Nikki Giovanni was one of the leading authors of the Black Arts Movement. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943, Giovanni was raised in Ohio and attended Fisk University. Until 2022, she taught as a university distinguished professor at Virginia Tech. In addition to numerous poetry collections, Giovanni has authored several children’s books and was nominated for a Grammy Award (for Best Spoken Word or Non-musical Album) for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. We love the cover of this 1971 publication Re:Creation, which features the photography of Chester Higgins.