These events are made possible by Illinois Libraries Present, a statewide collaboration among libraries and the generous support of the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library. Read more below »
Danny Trejo Talks Tacos, Hollywood & Redemption
Tuesday, April 4, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: Actor, author, and restaurateur Danny Trejo will discuss how he developed a prolific career in the entertainment industry with a hard-earned and atypical road to success.
From years of imprisonment to helping troubled youth battle drug addictions, from acting to producing, and now on to restaurant ventures, Trejo’s name, face, and achievements are well recognized in Hollywood and beyond, but it is his continuous role as a devoted father of three and an intervention counselor that bring him the most satisfaction.
About Danny Trejo
Trejo has starred in dozens of films including Desperado, Heat, the From Dusk Til Dawn series, Con Air, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids, and Machete. On the television side, he’s had recurring roles on Sons of Anarchy, King of the Hill, Breaking Bad, and The Flash, among others. He has also starred in and voiced various popular video games like Call of Duty, Fallout, and Grand Theft Auto, as well as voiced characters in the animated films Storks, The Book of Life, Minions 2: The Rise of Gru, and Maya and the Three.
He shared his love of food with the world in the release of his first cookbook Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes and Stories from LA. His fearlessly honest memoir Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood was released in July 2021.
Secrets of a Puzzle Master: A Conversation With Will Shortz
Tuesday, April 25, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: Will Shortz, the editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle and the world’s only academically accredited puzzle master, discusses crossword puzzles. The author/editor of more than 500 puzzle books, Shortz is also the puzzle master for NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held annually for more than 40 years. Through his championing of puzzles, Will has earned admiring fans from all over the world.
In honor of this event, Will Shortz has created a special crossword puzzle all about Illinois. The puzzle will be emailed to all registrants after March 14!
Drawing Comics With Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Saturday, May 6, 10 am, virtually on Zoom: Celebrate Free Comic Book Day with New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka! Perfect for the entire family, this live, virtual drawing workshop is sure to inspire the inner artist in everyone.
Jarrett creates books with humor, heart, and deep respect for his young readers—qualities that have made his titles perennial favorites on the bookshelves of homes, libraries, and bookstores over the past twenty years. So sharpen your pencils, bring out the paper, and join us for this can’t-miss event!
On Being Fabulous With Jonathan Van Ness & Kristi Yamaguchi
Wednesday, May 17, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: Queer Eye and Getting Curious star and ice skating superfan, Jonathan Van Ness talks with his idol, Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. They’ll chat figure skating, fabulous style, and whatever else comes up! With Jonathan, you never quite know what he’ll say next, but his unfiltered takes are always as interesting as they are hilarious.
About Johnathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness is an Emmy-nominated television personality, New York Times bestselling author, podcaster, and hairstylist to the stars. On Netflix’s Queer Eye series, he shines as the hair guru and self-care advocate. Most recently, Jonathan launched JVN, a haircare line that sees all beauty, serves all beauty, and honors the uniqueness in each of us.
About Kristi Yamaguchi
Kristi Yamaguchi is an Olympic, U.S., and World Hall of Fame figure skater with two World Championship Gold medals along with an Olympic Gold medal. Off the ice, Kristi is a New York Times bestselling author, and her Always Dream Foundation is committed to improving early childhood literacy and technology access to children of low-income families. She is also the creator of Tsuya, a clothing line that delivers style for every part of an active lifestyle.
Navigate Your Stars: A Conversation with Jesmyn Ward
RESCHEDULED FOR Tuesday, June 6, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: Join us for an evening with two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward. Hailed as “the new Toni Morrison” by the American Booksellers Association, Jesmyn will discuss her life, her literary vision, and her unique perspectives on love and loss. Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director of American Library Association, will join her in conversation.
About Jesymn Ward
Jesmyn Ward is the critically acclaimed author of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, including bestselling Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones, and the memoir Men We Reaped. Her many honors include the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and a Strauss Living Award. In 2017, she became the first woman and first person of color to win the National Book Award for Fiction twice. The standout writer of her generation, Ward’s stories are largely set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where she grew up and still lives. A professor of creative writing at Tulane University, Ward’s latest book, Navigate Your Stars, is an adaptation of her 2018 commencement address at Tulane that championed the value of hard work.
About Tracie D. Hall
Tracie D. Hall is an American librarian, author, curator, and advocate for the arts. She is the first African American woman to lead the American Library Association, where she’s served as Executive Director since 2020 and fights for social justice, access to information, and universal broadband.
Braiding Sweetgrass: A Conversation With Robin Wall Kimmerer
Wednesday, June 21, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: Join us for a special evening with Robin Wall Kimmerer, the award-winning author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. In this insightful and inspiring talk, Robin will share her unique perspective on the interconnectedness of humans and nature and the importance of recognizing and respecting the gifts of the earth. She will delve into her own experiences as a botanist, indigenous science professor, and environmental advocate, and offer insights into her journey of learning to listen to the voice of the natural world.
This is a rare opportunity to hear from one of the most important voices in the movement toward a more sustainable and equitable future and to be inspired to make positive changes in your own life and community.
About Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall Kimmerer is an acclaimed author, botanist, and indigenous science professor known for her deep connection to nature and passion for promoting a more sustainable and equitable world. Her writing blends indigenous knowledge, scientific research, and personal experiences to offer a unique perspective on the interdependence of humans and the natural world. Her first book, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,” has received widespread praise and has become a touchstone in the movement towards rethinking our relationship with the earth.
The Weird & Wonderful World With Mary Roach
Event held March 1: Experience an entertaining and hilarious evening with New York Times best-selling science author, Mary Roach. Roach will discuss her frank approach to science, the importance of humor, and explore the weird, wonderful world in which we live. Annalee Newitz, from the hilarious podcast, Our Opinions are Correct, will join Mary Roach in conversation.
About Mary Roach
Dubbed “America’s funniest science writer” by the Washington Post, Mary Roach has explored topics from the curious lives of human cadavers, packing to visit space, the afterlife, the alimentary canal, and more. Roach claims to have no hobbies, but enjoys bird-watching, hiking, playing scrabble, and watching late-night Animal Planet. She is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, including Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Her newest book Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, debuted September 2021. Mary’s books have been published in 21 languages, and her second book, Spook, was a New York Times Notable Book.
Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, The New York Times Magazine, and the Journal of Clinical Anatomy, among others. She was a guest editor of the Best American Science and Nature Writing series and an Osher Fellow with the San Francisco Exploratorium and serves as an advisor for Orion and Undark magazines. She has been a finalist for the Royal Society’s Winton Prize and a winner of the American Engineering Societies’ Engineering Journalism Award, in a category for which, let’s be honest, she was the sole entrant.
About Annalee Newitz
Annalee Newitz writes science fiction and nonfiction. They are the author of Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age and Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in science. They’re also the author of the novels The Terraformers (forthcoming in January 2023), The Future of Another Timeline, and Autonomous, which won the Lambda Literary Award.
As a journalist, they are a writer for the New York Times and elsewhere, and have a monthly column in New Scientist. They have published in The Washington Post, Slate, Popular Science, Ars Technica, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, among others. They are the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Previously, they were the founder of io9, and served as the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo.
Saying Yes to Your Story: A Conversation with Kwame Alexander
Event held February 8: Join us for an evening of inspiration and conversation with best-selling and award-winning children’s and young adult author and poet, Kwame Alexander. Kwame will share ways to say yes to your story and persist in the face of rejection as he shares his own publishing journey. As a creator of more than 36 books, Kwame will energize our community to harness the power of words and storytelling for change!
About Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, publisher, and New York Times bestselling author of 36 books, including Swing, Becoming Muhammad Ali (co-authored with James Patterson), Rebound, The Undefeated, The Crossover, and The Door of No Return. A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. In 2018, he opened the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic in Ghana, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded. He is the writer and executive producer of The Crossover show on Disney+.
Inciting Joy: A Conversation With Ross Gay
Event held January 11: Kick off your new year with a conversation about joy with best-selling essayist and award-winning poet Ross Gay. This discussion of his most recent collection of essays, Inciting Joy, will explore the joy we incite when we turn our attention to what brings us together and to what we love.
About Ross Gay
Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller.
Midwest Baking With Shauna Sever
Event held December 13: Shauna Sever, cookbook author, TV and radio contributor, and daughter of the great Midwest, shared her love of food, baking, and some tips to make your holiday gatherings delicious. Chicago Tribune food critic and co-host of the Chewing podcast, Louisa Chu, joined Shauna in conversation.
About Shauna Sever
As a writer, Shauna’s work is best defined by her baking-centric cookbooks. Her fourth, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking From the Heartland, was named a Best Baking Cookbooks of 2019 by The New York Times. She has also contributed food stories and recipes for The Wall Street Journal, Food52, Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, Real Simple, Midwest Living, Food and Wine, O Magazine, and many more. Though her career began in broadcast journalism and she now talks about pie instead of Hollywood, she uses the same skill set for her regular television appearances on TODAY Show and Food Network. After 12 years of California living, Shauna and her family returned to Chicago, where she now bakes, writes, and is always on the hunt for great old-school Midwestern bakeries.
About Louisa Chu
Louisa was named a Chicago Tribune food critic in 2021. She received a James Beard Foundation nomination for the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award in 2022. Born in Hong Kong, but raised in Chicago, Chu lived in Los Angeles, then moved to Paris, where she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. She staged at El Bulli in Spain, then worked as a correspondent for Gourmet, a chef in Alaska and a fixer for Anthony Bourdain. Chu joined the Tribune in 2016 as a reporter, and currently co-hosts the Chewing podcast.
A Conversation With Caitlin Doughty
Event held November 16: Caitlin Doughty, mortician, bestselling author, and advocate for death acceptance (hailed by The New York Times as “a relentlessly curious and chipper tour guide to the underworld”), discussed reform of Western funeral industry practices and much more with Mark Bazer, host and creator of The Interview Show.
About Caitlin Doughty
Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, advocate, and bête noire of the traditional funeral industry. Her educational webseries Ask a Mortician has been viewed almost 250 million times and her three books were New York Times bestsellers—Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, From Here to Eternity, and Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? She founded a Los Angeles funeral home as well as the funeral reform collective—The Order of the Good Death—which spawned the death positive movement.
About Mark Bazer
Mark Bazer is host and creator of The Interview Show, a talk show in a bar. Aired on Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW, and filmed at The Hideout, it features conversations as substantive as they are entertaining.
A Conversation With Marlee Matlin: From Oscar to West Wing & Beyond
Event held September 14: In celebration of Deaf Awareness Month, Marlee Matlin shared the highs and lows of her Hollywood career and journeys as an activist. The youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar, Matlin’s acting career achieved another milestone as her 2021 film CODA swept every category it was nominated in at the 2022 Academy Awards. This program was offered in ASL and translated through an interpreter.
About Marlee Matlin: A longtime advocate for deaf rights, Matlin continues to break down barriers for herself and others through her acting, awareness, and writing. As she has so aptly stated, “The only thing I can’t do is hear. The rest is there for the taking.”
Event held June 30: Musician and author Michelle Zauner discussed her music career and her beloved bestselling memoir, Crying in H Mart. Jessica Hopper joined her in conversation.
About Michelle Zauner: Michelle Zauner is best known as a singer and guitarist who creates dreamy, shoegaze-inspired indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She has won acclaim from major music outlets around the world for releases like Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds From Another Planet (2017). Critically acclaimed Jubilee (2021) is currently nominated for two Grammy awards. Crying in H Mart is her first book.
About Jessica Hopper: Jessica Hopper is a music critic, producer, and author based in Chicago. In a career spanning more than 20 years, Hopper has earned acclaim as a provocative, fearless music journalist. She has written for, among others, GQ, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Elle, and the Chicago Reader. She is the author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic and co-founded Golden Teapot, a production company specializing in music and culture documentary work.
Event held June 22: Chef Kwame Onwuachi shared the importance of the connections between cuisine, place, and culture. His first cookbook, My America: Recipes From a Young Black Chef, celebrates the cuisine of the African diaspora, “the world’s wisest food.” Chef Erick Williams of Virtue Restaurant joined him in conversation.
About Kwame Onwuachi: Kwame Onwuachi is a James Beard Award-winning chef who was born on Long Island and raised in New York City, Nigeria, and Louisiana. Onwuachi was first exposed to cooking by his mother, in the family’s modest Bronx apartment, and he took that spark of passion and turned it into a career. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and opened five restaurants before turning thirty. A former Top Chef contestant, he has been named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef 2019 and a 30 Under 30 honoree by both Zagat and Forbes. Onwuachi’s 2019 memoir, Notes From a Young Black Chef, received critical acclaim.
About Erick Williams: Erick Williams is Owner and Executive Chef at Virtue Restaurant in Chicago, and a Chicago native with a storied career. From his time as Executive Chef at mk to hosting James Beard Foundation dinners, Williams has become ingrained in the restaurant community alongside fellow leaders of the industry. Outside the kitchen, Williams donates his time and talent to those less fortunate by partnering with charities to share his vast knowledge and give back.
Jessamine Chan & Emily Maloney
Event held May 25: Jessamine Chan and Emily Maloney shared a discussion about the systems of power that impact our lives, our families, and our finances, through the lens of their acclaimed books, The School for Good Mothers and Cost of Living.
About Jessamine Chan: Jessamine Chan is the New York Times bestselling author of The School for Good Mothers, her debut novel. Her short stories have appeared in Tin House and Epoch. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and lives in Chicago with her family.
About Emily Maloney: Emily Maloney is the author of Cost of Living, a collection of essays. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Best American Essays, among others. She holds an MFA from The University of Pittsburgh and lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her partner and their dog.
Nick Offerman & Jeff Tweedy
Event held April 27: Actor/humorist/woodworker Nick Offerman, in conversation with musician/hiking buddy Jeff Tweedy.
About Nick Offerman
Best known for his breakout role as Ron Swanson in the hit TV series Parks and Recreation, actor and New York Times bestselling author Nick Offerman, originally of Minooka, Ill., will be discussing his newest book, Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside.
About Jeff Tweedy: Jeff Tweedy is a musician, songwriter, author, and record producer best known as the singer and guitarist of the band Wilco. Originally from Belleville, Ill., Tweedy has released 20 studio albums across his career and is the author of two books, including How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back.
Event held March 30: Award-winning humorist Jenny Lawson discussed her most recent bestseller, Broken (in the Best Possible Way), and her brilliantly funny body of work. Author R. Eric Thomas (Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America) joined her in conversation.
About Jenny Lawson: Jenny is an American journalist, author, and blogger known for her great candor in sharing her struggle with mental illness. “The Bloggess” lives in Texas with her husband and daughter and was constantly “buying too many books” (“Not a real thing,” she insists), so she decided to skip the middleman and just started her own bookshop, which also serves booze because books and booze are what magic is made of. She has previously written Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy, both of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers. She would like to be your friend unless you’re a real asshole. (And yes, she realizes this paragraph is precisely the reason she shouldn’t be allowed to write her own bio.)
About Illinois Libraries Present
A collaborative consortia of more than 200 public libraries across the state, Illinois Libraries Present is in its second season of virtual premier events. There are currently two Oak Park library staff on ILP committees, working together with other great library minds and state resources “to provide high-quality online events at equitable prices for participating member libraries of all sizes and budgets. We connect communities and audiences across the state through shared event experiences.”
To start, the planning group’s goals include:
- To provide high-quality, high-profile events that highlight national names and social justice/diversity, equity and inclusion issues, that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive for single libraries to hold on their own.
- To reduce costs and maximize reach by taking advantage of both virtual event platforms and the collective buying power of Illinois public libraries.
- To allow access for all libraries as equitably as possible, by aligning each library’s cost to participate with the size of their operating budget.
- To define clear and distinct roles among Illinois Libraries Present committees and the participating libraries, including patron contact points, marketing, invoicing, etc.
The group also is committed to inclusion and accessibility. To request accommodations, email email@example.com.
Illinois Libraries Present is funded in part by a grant awarded by the Illinois State Library, a Department of the Office for the Secretary of State, using funds provided by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).