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American dreams:

A Festival


this spring, the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute AT the University of Nevada, Las Vegas & The Believer magazine bring a new kind of literary festival to Las Vegas

All events are free and open to the public but a reservation is required for each of the four venues via Eventbrite

Carrie Brownstein

Jim James

ZZ Packer

Luis Alberto Urrea




sally wen mao


Ben Marcus

hossein abkenar

donald revell

laura mcbride

Erica Vital-Lazare


hosted and co-curated by

Joshua Wolf Shenk


Vendela Vida


event details

A two-day festival held across four venues, American Dreams kicks off Friday eve at the Red Rock National Conservation Area and continues Saturday in downtown Las Vegas. All events are free and open to the public, but require reservations.

Why "American Dreams"? Because some clichés are like disco balls—point a light at them, and they give off a bright and multifarious light. The American Dream is that kind of cliché, and it has special hold on Las Vegas, Nevada, the quintessential American city. We made the phrase plural because multiplicity and complexity is at the heart of the idea. And we invited some of our favorite people to come dwell in the idea and explore it with us.

You’ll find the details on this website. Also, there is Eventbrite. Also, ample parking. But we ask that you consider not just the pixels but the picture; that you consider not just coming but attending. Don't look at these events like a rack of chips at 7-11 but as a meal your friend is serving. Join us for the olives and cheese and for the main plate and dessert.


prayers for the american dream

featuring Hossein Abkenar, Angelo Santino Ligori, Heidi Julavits, Sally Wen Mao, Laura McBride, Donald Revell, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Erica Vital-Lazare

In the face of open desert—the place of visionaries and wanderers and sagebrush lizards and red-spotted toads—an all-star cast of literary writers offers paeans, challenges, pleas &  demands to the great unknown re: the promise and peril of American life. This program is outdoors; it will end before dusk but dress warmly for the cool desert air.

Friday, April 21, 6 p.m. book signing | 6:30 p.m. start

The Amphitheatre at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Note: Entry to Red Rock is free for registered attendees of this program. The Amphitheatre adjoins the visitors' area, where there is ample free parking. A book-signing featuring festival presenters will precede the event. For directions to Red Rock, point your GPS to the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center.



Featuring Dayvid Figler, Dan Hamilton, Sally Wen Mao, Ben Marcus, ZZ Packer, David J. Morris, Nicholas Russell, Timea Sipos, and Luis Alberto Urrea

In what field of work, study, aspiration or creative practice is the American dream most alive? In the historic courtroom at the Mob Museum, a team of literary all-stars present their amicus briefs to the court of literary opinion.

Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m.

The Mob Museum, 300 Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas, NV

Note: Entry to the Mob Museum is free for registered attendees of this program.

Limited parking is available in the lot next to the Mob Museum for a $6 fee for the first three hours with an additional hourly charge after that time.

If the lot is at capacity, additional parking may be found within short walking distance at the El Cortez hotel.


american dreams: sex & rock 'n' roll division

featuring carrie brownstein, dave eggers, and miranda july

Saturday, April 22, 2 p.m. doors | 2:30 p.m. show

The Place on 7th, 115 N 7th St, Las Vegas, NV



Featuring JIM james and Tift Merritt

Saturday, April 22, 7:30 p.m. doors | 8 p.m. show

The Bunkhouse Saloon, 124 S 11th St, Las Vegas, NV

“All we were told was, go till you find the American Dream. Take this white Cadillac and go find The American Dream. It’s somewhere in the Las Vegas area.” —Hunter S. Thompson



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