Launch of Emily Mendenhall’s New Book Unmasked

Emily Mendenhall and Rebecca Katz in the Unmasked presentation
Emily Mendenhall and Rebecca Katz in the Unmasked presentation

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On March 19, 2022, Emily Mendenhall and Rebecca Katz met at the Politics and Prose independent bookstore to discuss her recently launched book, Unmasked.

Unmasked is the story of what happened in Okoboji, a small Iowan tourist town, when a collective turn from the coronavirus to the economy occurred in the COVID summer of 2020. State political failures, local negotiations among political and public health leaders, and community (dis)belief about the virus resulted in Okoboji being declared a hotspot just before the Independence Day weekend, when an influx of half a million people visit the town.

The story is both personal and political. Author Emily Mendenhall grew up in Okoboji, and her family still lives there. As the events unfolded, she was in Okoboji, where she spoke formally with over 100 people and observed a community that rejected public health guidance, revealing deep-seated mistrust in outsiders and strong commitments to local thinking. Unmasked is a fascinating and heartbreaking account of where people put their trust, and how isolationist popular beliefs can be in America’s small communities.

Watch the recording:

Read more about the event.