Table of Contents



Iowa has long been home to people of many lands, from indigenous peoples, including our namesake, the Ioway; to European settlers making their way west; to new populations arriving today from Latin America, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and beyond. Whether they came for the promise of agricultural work or picturesque family life, for a fresh start or for a return to generational roots, all have become part of the fabric of our state, interweaving to form a vivid tapestry of diverse cultures that make up the greater culture of Iowa. While often overlooked as a flyover state, our fields of opportunity quietly house the dreams of residents from all backgrounds as we continue to evolve what it means to be of this place.

The Bicultural Iowa Writers’ Fellowship (BIWF) was created to bring to light the writing of Iowans who are both of this place and of another. It is the only program of its kind in the state—a fully funded residency that provides the training and the platform for telling these essential stories. The program’s inaugural fellows are individuals as artists and as people, but they all have one thing in common: they call Iowa home. Each artist uses the genres that their talents most naturally express. Chuy Renteria found his voice best expressed in essay and short fiction, while Melissa Palma chose a combination of poetry, fiction, and essays to tell her stories. Sadagat Aliyeva gifts us not only with her mystical fables but also with a talent in illustration unlike any we’ve yet seen.

This collection represents their unique experiences and amalgamation of influences, from the coast of Azerbaijan to the border towns of Mexico to the archipelago of the Philippines, all now firmly rooted here in the heartland.

In these times it may be easy to fall back into divisions of Self and Other, but the stories in this book remind us that the experiences of being human are grounded in universal truths that we all share. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the founding ideals of this nation, and we hope this collection encourages all of us to ensure these unalienable rights are extended to everyone.

Andrea Wilson

Founder, Iowa Writers' House