Wednesday, October 13, 2021
By Giovanna Deo

This year the One Community, One Book (OCOB) program celebrates its 20th anniversary. The program is hosted by the UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR), one of the many centers and institutes at Iowa Law. This annual community-wide reading project invites campus and community members to read the same human rights-related text and participate in related activities, such as virtual book clubs, classroom visits, author keynotes, and webinars. 

OCOB was envisioned by UICHR founders Dorothy Paul and Burns Weston in 2001 as a collaborative effort between the campus and community to promote human rights education through the reading of literature. Since its inception, UICHR has helped organize countless OCOB events in Iowa City and Johnson County, often partnering with groups such as public libraries, high schools, the Oakdale correctional facility, and the Iowa City Senior Center. Through shared readings and conversations, the program serves as an innovative way to unite people of all ages and backgrounds, while promoting community and world values. 

Over the years, authors including Khaled Hosseini, author of “The Kite Runner,” and Bryan Stevenson, who wrote “Just Mercy,” have visited and delivered keynote lectures to speak about their writings. Through partnerships with the City of Literature, Geneva Campus Ministry, and other campus and community groups, UICHR has been able to further integrate the program into the life of the community. 

“The OCOB program has been an important way to engage a broad cross-section of our campus and community in meaningful dialogue about human rights issues globally and close to home. Our center has long recognized the value of artistic expression as a tool in human rights education. OCOB seems like a natural fit in a university and community with such a literary tradition,” stated Iowa Law professor and associate director of UICHR, Brian Farrell.  

This year’s OCOB selection features the text, “Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration," written by Dr. Reuben Miller. As past chaplain at Cook County Jail in Chicago, Dr. Miller spent years working alongside prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their friends and families. After seeing the lifelong burden a single arrest can entail, he carved out in his works a simple truth… that life after incarnation is its own form of prison. 

Dr. Miller’s book is available for purchase from vendors in Iowa City, such as Hawk Shop and Prairie Lights, or through online shops as well. The author will be participating in a virtual keynote address on October 21 at 7:00pm. More details can be found here

UICHR, which has been a unit of the College of Law since 2013, is led by Director Adrien Wing and Associate Director Brian Farrell (JD98), both human rights scholars who teach in the law school. They are joined by Assistant Director Amy Weismann (JD00), Program Manager Erika Christiansen, and Program Advisor Jo Butterfield. 

Adrien Wing is the associate dean for International and Comparative Law Programs and the Bessie Dutton Murray Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. There, she also serves as the director of the France Summer Abroad Program as well as UICHR director. Author of over 140 publications, she teaches Critical Race Theory, Sex Discrimination Law, and Law in the Muslim World. 

Brian Farrell, associate professor of instruction in law and human rights, teaches courses in international law, criminal law, and human rights. In addition to being UICHR associate director, he directs the undergraduate Human Rights Certificate Program, as well as Iowa Law’s Citizen Lawyer Program. Farrell also serves as an adjunct lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway and is a member of the Iowa Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission.