We are proud to announce the 2019 Bicultural Iowa Writing Fellows: Dawson Davenport, Ajla Dizdarević, and Antonia Rivera. Over the next six months, these artists will embark on a journey to write the next chapter of Iowa, stories that intertwine global history, migration in present day America, and the bicultural experiences of living in Midwest.

Get to know a little more about them:


Dawson Davenport
Dawson Davenport is from the Meskwaki Settlement, located in central Iowa, and a member of the Meskwaki Nation. He is the first Native American to be nominated as a Bicultural Iowa Writing Fellow. Dawson is an artist, poet, writer, thinker, activist, advocate, educator, musician, hip-hop head, radio host, podcaster, fashion designer, entrepreneur among many other things. A non-traditional student at the University of Iowa, majoring in Art/Graphic Design, and Entrepreneurial Management, he is a member of the Native American Student Association (NASA), and Indigenous Iowa.


Ajla Dizdarević
Ajla Dizdarević is a Bosnian-American who grew up in Waterloo, Iowa. Her writing concerns itself with the Balkan experience and post-war diaspora life. A sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in English and creative writing, she has won the Iowa Chapbook Prize and the David Hamilton Undergraduate Creative Writing Prize.  She is also a recipient of the Iowa Scholarship for the Arts from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Ajla hopes to share underrepresented narratives through her own writing and by raising the voices of other Slavic writers with her forthcoming Slavic diaspora magazine, Gastarbajter.


Antonia Rivera
Antonia Rivera was born in Mexico, Distrito Federal and today lives in Urbandale, Iowa. After receiving a B.A. in Literary Journalism from the University of California Irvine, she was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status in the United States, an immigration status created in order protect eligible immigrant youth from deportation. She spent her post college years organizing her community around issues that surrounded her undocumented life as a 1.5 generation immigrant. In 2011, she relocated to Iowa, finding safe haven in Des Moines. She holds a passion for storytelling and looks forward to sharing her experience as a DACAmented-millennial mother and as a California girl in an Iowan world through the Bicultural Iowa Writers’ Fellowship. 



Hieu Pham, Des Moines (Vietnamese- American)
Anthony Mielke, Cedar Rapids (Puerto Rican-American)
Rana Hewezi, Iowa City (Egyptian-American)
Sarah Elgatian, Iowa City (Armenian-American)
Vanessa Espinoza, Columbus Junction (Mexican-American)
Annelize Wilson-Langman, Pleasant Hill (South African-American)
Nicolas Mendoza, Iowa City (Filipino-American)

2018 BIWF Ambassadors

Our inaugural class of fellows serve as ongoing ambassadors to the program, helping spread the message across Iowa of their book, We the Interwoven, and of the BIWF program. Learn a little more about them and then pick up a copy of their book at your local store or here on our site.


Sadagat Aliyeva was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, during the Soviet Era of Stagnation. She was drawn to arts, poetry, and spirituality as a child. Her desire of freedom eventually brought her to Des Moines, Iowa. Her fictional folktale-like stories tell of the magic and beauty in human nature.

Jesus “Chuy” Renteria is an artist, writer, dancer, and storyteller. Raised in West Liberty, both sides of his family are from border towns in Mexico that transplanted to meat packing towns in the Midwest. Chuytells stories celebrating the spaces between cultures, of mangled Spanglish and generational clashes, of the messiness of people finding themselves.

Melissa Palma is the daughter of Filipino immigrants and grew up in a multigenerational household with her grandparents, parents, and little sister, in Waterloo, Iowa. Today she’s a UI medical school graduate dedicating her life to helping others. Her stories tell tales of a life centered in Ang pamilya, the Tagalog word for family.