Lisa Lucas, the first African American Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, speaks to an audience at The Englert theatre on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Lucas was hosted by the University Lecture Committee in collaboration The Green Room. She spoke on the importance of literature and its ability to bridge together communities from different backgrounds. "Books and literature can change both our hearts and our minds," said Lucas while speaking at The Englert. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

National Book Foundation executive director gives talk at The Englert on literature, unity

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The executive director of the National Book Foundation led a talk on the importance of reading and literature.

By Salma Rios
salma-rios@uiowa.edu

The Green Room gave Iowa City a message: Books are powerful.

Lisa Lucas held a lecture Monday at the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., as a part of a lecture series held by The Green Room and the University Lecture Committee, which opens a class to the public with speakers discussing topics relevant to the community.

Lucas’ lecture focused on how books and knowledge can help build a bridge and connect literature and the problems in the world.

“I believe that books can change the world,” she said. “Books and literature can change both our hearts and our minds.”

Lucas, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, has a background in both literature and theater. She has served on numerous committees and boards for theater, literature, and film.

Throughout the lecture, she stressed the importance of reading and getting people involved in literature. She described a little bit about her background with books, how her mother used to read her passages of books and how it sparked a desire in her to read.

Lucas also spoke about how it felt to be the first female and first African American to be the executive director of the National Book Foundation.

“It was really hard at first. I felt a lot of pressure to do well in this position,” she said.

Lucas has held many positions in her career. She served as the publisher of Guernica, a nonprofit online magazine that focuses on the writing that explores the intersection of art and politics with an international and diverse focus. She was the director of education at the Tribeca Film Institute and a member of the development team at Steppenwolf Theater.

Lucas has been a consultant for the Sundance Institute, the San Francisco Film Society, and including her work with the National Book Foundation, she is also serves on the literary council of the Brooklyn Film Festival.

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David Gould, the administrator of the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development as well as the instructor leading The Green Room, was excited to promote the ideals Lucas believes in to his students and community.

“Lisa believes that the cannon of American literature should represent the diverse voices that make up the country,” he said. “She is also committed to creating a new generation of readers based on the idea that books “make us more empathetic” and connect us to one another.”

Lucas said she believes everyone should have access to books and emphasized the fact that reading is for everyone. She also left the audience with a question to think about as they left the Englert.

“What are you doing to bring people into literature?”

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