University of Iowa

Carol Spindel

Writer and activist Carol Spindel combines memoir, narrative nonfiction, and ethnography to explore a wide range of subjects. Her memoir of living in West Africa, In the Shadow of the Sacred Grove, is a New York Times Notable Book. Her nonfiction book Dancing at Halftime examines the controversy over American Indian-themed mascots in American sports. Her award-winning audio pieces have been heard on National Public Radio and her essays and reviews have appeared in publications including African Arts, Oxford American, and Guernica. She is a longtime activist with ACLU of Illinois.

Instructor Events

Annie Dillard famously said, “The writer of any work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two crucial points: what to put in and what to leave out.” If you have a nonfiction or memoir project in progress, you probably agree. But you may be asking: how do I decide? I have all this material, but how do I shape it? Where do I begin and end? Which parts do I put in and which do I leave out?


Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

We all lead multiple lives, so no wonder it’s difficult to write a single memoir. And when our own lives are the subject, we have far too many subsidiary characters and subplots and know way too many details about all of them. This makes wrestling our memories into coherent literary form a bit like trying to organize an overstuffed closet, except in literature we don’t have plastic tubs or garage sales.