These 3 Amazing Writers Score MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant!

Here’s a nice daydream to fuel you through your mid-week slump: you wake up on a feather mattress to a butler handing you a perfectly brewed mug of your favorite coffee and a pumpkin cheese danish. You slip on a cozy robe and take your coffee onto your private patio, where you breathe in the crisp autumn air while overlooking the skyline of your kingdom. Snuggled up on a tastefully upholstered chaise lounge, you are are just about to doze off into a well-earned post-wakeup nap when your phone rings.


It’s a stranger on the other end, and the stranger says, “Congratulations, you’re a genius!”


Okay, so most of the details of this daydream are totally unrealistic. But there is one detail that became very real for twenty-four special people this year. The lucky and unsuspecting recipients, who never had to submit themselves for consideration, were just announced as the 2017 MacArthur Fellows, colloquially called the ‘Genius Grant’. Basically, they’re geniuses.


And now they each have $625,000 to show for it. 


The recipients as a group are not of any particular mold. There are anthropologists and activists and musicians and, of course, writers. Of the twenty-four winners, here are the writers who can now add “genius” to their list of personal and professional attributes.


Jesmyn Ward, author of Salvage the Bones, Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Where the Line Bleeds, focuses her narratives in her native Gulf Coast region. 


Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward / Image via The MacArthur Foundation


Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Refugees, The Sympathizer (2016 Pulitzer Prize-winner), and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, explores the impact and misconceptions about war in both fiction and non-fiction.  


Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen / Image via The MacArthur Foundation


Annie Baker, a playwright whose works include John, The Vermont Plays, and The Flick, is currently serving as resident playwright at The Signature Theatre in New York City. 


Annie Baker

Annie Baker / Image via The MacArthur Foundation


These three talented writers join a distinguished list of other geniuses, whose talents span the breadth of human creativity and ingenuity:


Njideka Akunyili Crosby, painter, of Los Angeles, CA


Sunil Amrith, historian, of Cambridge, MA


Greg Asbed, human rights strategist, of Immokalee, FL


Regina Barzilay, computer scientist, of Cambridge, MA


Dawoud Bey, photographer and educator, of Chicago, IL


Emmanuel Candès, mathematician and statistician, of Stanford, CA


Jason De Léon, anthropologist, of Ann Arbor, MI


Rhiannon Giddens, singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter, of Greensboro, NC


Nikole Hannah-Jones, journalist, of New York, NY


Cristina Jiménez Moreta, social justice organizer, of Washington, DC


Taylor Mac, theater artist, of New York, NY


Rami Nashashibi, community leader, of Chicago, IL


Kate Orff, landscape architect, of New York, NY


Trevor Paglen, artist and geographer, of Berlin, Germany


Betsy Levy Paluck, psychologist, of Princeton, NJ


Derek Peterson, historian, of Ann Arbor, MI


Damon Rich, designer and urban planner, of Newark, NJ


Stefan Savage, computer scientist, of LaJolla, CA


Yuval Sharon, opera director and producer, Los Angeles, CA


Tyshawn Sorey, composer and musician, Middletown, CT


Gabriel Victora, immunologist, New York, NY


There will be another round of geniuses selected in 2018, so if you happen to consider yourself a potential genius, keep on dreaming!


Feature Image Via Gaia