6 Writers Earn 2016 MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants


Gene Luen Yang

Today, graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, journalist Sarah Stillman, artist and writer Lauren Redniss, poet Claudia Rankine, writer Maggie Nelson, and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins were named among 23 artists and scientists receiving 2016 MacArthur Fellowships. Nominated by a committee of “external, invited nominators,” MacArthur Fellows are ultimately selected by 12 jurists to receive a stipend of $625,000, paid in quarterly installments over five years. The FAQs section of the MacArthur Foundation website details: “The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements.”  Last year’s class included Ta-Nehisi CoatesBen LernerLin-Manuel Miranda, and Ellen Bryant Voigt.


MacArthur Foundation Grants Four Writers 'Genius' Award

MacArthur Foundation Recipients_Alison Bechdel, Terrance Hayes, Samuel D Hunter, Khaled Mattawa_peoplewhowrite

From top left: Alison Bechdel, Terrance Hayes, Samuel D. Hunter, and Khaled Mattawa.

The MacArthur Foundation has honored “21 Extraordinarily Creative People Who Inspire Us All” with their 2014 “genius grant”, four of whom are writers. Terrance Hayes, Professor of Writing at the University of Pittsburgh, and New York playwright Samuel D. Hunter were recognized for “refreshing traditional templates to create distinctive and innovative work.” Poet and translator Khaled Mattawa earned the honor for “deepening our understanding of contemporary Arabic poetry”. Graphic memoirist and cartoonist Alison Bechdel was esteemed for “redefining paradigms in memoir”. According to the MacArthur Foundation, the honor comes with “a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, paid out over five years.” Additionally, “The Fellowship comes with no stipulations or reporting requirements, and allows recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions.

The full list of honorees is below:

Designing new strategies to address persistent social challenges such as securing fair and affordable housing (John Henneberger), protecting civil rights (Mary L. Bonauto), and ensuring equal access to justice for both the victims of crime (Sarah Deer) and the accused (Jonathan Rapping);

Redefining paradigms in algebraic geometry (Jacob Lurie), documentary film (Joshua Oppenheimer), memoir (Alison Bechdel), labor organizing (Ai-jen Poo), and public art (Rick Lowe);

Refreshing traditional templates to create distinctive and innovative work in theatre (Samuel D. Hunter), jazz (Steve Coleman), and poetry (Terrance Hayes);

Probing with original insights into number theory (Yitang Zhang), brain connectivity (Danielle Bassett), and racial bias (Jennifer L. Eberhardt);

Bridging the gap between theory and application in black carbon emissions (Tami Bond), nanomaterials (Mark Hersam), and cryptography (Craig Gentry);

Deepening our understanding of contemporary Arabic poetry (Khaled Mattawa), and the historical roots of empirical science (Pamela O. Long) and national identities in Europe (Tara Zahra).