Illinois Libraries Present

These events are made possible by Illinois Libraries Present, a statewide collaboration and the generous support of the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library. Read more below »

Upcoming events

Shauna Sever with book cover of "Midwest Made"

Midwest Baking With Shauna Sever

Tuesday, December 13, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: Join Shauna Sever, cookbook author, TV and radio contributor, and daughter of the great Midwest, for this special Illinois Libraries Present holiday season event. Shauna will share 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, will join 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.

Inciting Joy: A Conversation With Ross Gay

Tuesday, January 11, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: 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 WhichBringing the Shovel DownBe 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.

Author Jesmyn Ward, photo by Beowulf Sheehan, with book covers of Men are Reaped and Sing, Unburied, Sing

RESCHEDULED FOR Tuesday, June 6, 7 pm, virtually on Zoom: Jesmyn Ward was unable to appear on October 12, 2022, due to a family health emergency, and the event has been rescheduled for June 6, 2023. Registration will be available at a later date!

About Jesymn Ward: Two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward as she discusses how her literary vision and personal experiences address urgent questions about racism and social injustice. Ward, hailed as “the new Toni Morrison” by the American Booksellers Association, is the author of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, including the critically acclaimed novels Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones, and the memoir Men We Reaped. In 2017, she became the first woman and first person of color to win the National Book Award for Fiction twice. A professor of creative writing at Tulane University and contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Ward’s many honors include the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, a MacArthur Genius Grant, and a Strauss Living Award.

Past events

Caitlin Doughty with book covers of "Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs," "From Here to Eternity," and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyeballs"

A Conversation With Caitlin Doughty

Event held November 16: Join us for a conversation with 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,” she’ll discuss 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 EyesFrom 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.

Marlee Matlin with book cover "I'll Scream Later"

A Conversation With Marlee Matlin: From Oscar to West Wing & Beyond

Event held September 14: In celebration of Deaf Awareness Month, Marlee Matlin joins Illinois Libraries Present to share 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 recently 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.”

Photos of Michelle Zauner (photo by Barbora Mrazkova) and Jessica Hopper (photo by Mercedes Zapata) with an image of a copy of Michelle Zauner's book Crying in H Mart

Michelle Zauner

Event held Thursday, June 30: Join us for an evening with musician and author Michelle Zauner as she discusses her music career and her beloved bestselling memoir, Crying in H Mart. Jessica Hopper joins 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.

Photo of Kwame Onwuachi (photo Clay Williams) with photos of book covers My America: Recipes From A Young Black Chef and Notes From A Young Black Chef

Kwame Onwuachi

Event held Wednesday, June 22: Join us for an engaging evening with chef Kwame Onwuachi. His first cookbook, My America: Recipes From a Young Black Chef, celebrates the cuisine of the African diaspora, “the world’s wisest food.” He’ll share the importance of the connections between cuisine, place, and culture. Chef Erick Williams of Virtue Restaurant joins 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.

Photos of Jessamine Chan (photo by Beowulf Sheeha) and Emily Maloney (Photo by Joanna Eldredge Morissey) with an image of book covers The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan and Cost of Living by Emily Maloney

Jessamine Chan & Emily Maloney

Event held Wednesday, May 25: Join Jessamine Chan and Emily Maloney for 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.

Photos of Nick Offerman (photo by George Saunders) and Jeff Tweedy (Photo by Alexa Viscius) with a photo of a copy of Nick Offerman's newest book  Where the Deer and the Antelope Play in between

Nick Offerman & Jeff Tweedy

Event held Wednesday, April 27: Join us for 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.

Author Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson

Event held Wednesday, March 30: Award-winning humorist Jenny Lawson discusses 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) joins 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.)

Author Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory

Event held Wednesday, February 16: Dubbed one of romance’s brightest new voices, bestselling author Jasmine Guillory will discuss her newest novel, While We Were Dating, and the modern rom-com. Author Morgan Rogers (Honey Girl) will join her in conversation.

About Jasmine Guillory: Jasmine Guillory is a writer, lawyer, and New York Times bestselling author of six romance novels, including The Wedding DateThe Proposal, and While We Were Dating. NPR called The Proposal, “Rollicking, charming, and infinitely zesty.” Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Bon Appetit, and Time. She lives in Oakland, California where she has a towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Author Silvia Moreno Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Event held Wednesday, January 26: The bestselling and award-winning author of Mexican Gothic discusses her newest book, Velvet Was the Nightand her genre-defying mashups of cultural noir and Lovecraftian horror. Velvet Was the Night is one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2021. Silvia Moreno-Garcia will be joined in conversation with author Gus Moreno.

About Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Moreno-Garcia is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed novels Certain Dark Things, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed novels Certain Dark Things, Gods of Jade and Shadow, and Mexican Gothicwhich Vanity Fair called “[An] irresistibly dark feminist reimagining of the Gothic fantasy novel.” Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination, Moreno-Garcia has edited several anthologies and is a columnist for The Washington Post.

About Gus Morena: Gus Moreno is the author of This Thing Between Us. His favorite books are American PsychoBattle Royale, and Under the Skin. He lives in the suburbs with his wife and dogs, but never think that he’s not from Chicago.

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Illinois Libraries Present Logo

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

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