Tag: emily wilson

Meet the 7 Writers who Just Won MacArthur Genius Grants

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded 26 Genius Grants this year to a select few individuals who exhibit “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Seven of these amazing people are fiction writers, non-fiction scholars, and poets who you should absolutely check out if you haven’t already!


1 – Ocean Vuong

Images via WBUR.org and Amazon

Vuong’s been having a great year. His debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was greeted with widespread critical acclaim. The novel is written as a letter to a mother who does not speak or read English. In an interview with the MacArthur foundation, Vuong spoke on the autobiographical roots of the story: “I grew up surrounded by Vietnamese refugee women who used stories to create portals,” said Vuong. “I use language and literature as a way to orchestrate a framework to think and inquire about American life, including the legacy of American violence.”

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Vuong has also been widely praised for his poetry. The feature the MacArthur Foundation wrote on Vuong describes him as “a vital new literary voice demonstrating mastery of multiple poetic registers while addressing the effects of intergenerational trauma, the refugee experience, and the complexities of identity and desire.” His debut book of poetry, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, won the T.S. Eliot prize.

2 – Lynda Barry

Image via Wikimedia

Lynda Barry’s zany graphic novels and memoirs have earned her a reputation as one of the most innovative writers working in the genre. She’s dedicated a large portion of her career to helping others discover their voice in writing. Her 2006 book, What It Isfocuses on the role of image-making in writing and human communication.

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3 – Emily Wilson

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You might recognize Emily Wilson as the classicist who, in 2017, became the first woman to publish a translation of Homer’s The Odyssey. Her translation attracted a lot of attention for its innovative use of modern idiom, and critic praised Wilson for her ability to capture the metrical and musical qualities of the original text in her translation.

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4 – Valeria Luiselli

Image via the Macarthur foundation

Luiselli’s 2019 novel, Lost Children Archive, was recently long listed for The Booker Prize. The novel tells a fictionalized account of her family’s journey from New York to the Texas-Mexico borderlands. Luiselli’s techniques of blending fiction and essay challenge the boundaries of both forms.

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5 – Jeffrey Alan Miller

Image via the Macarthur FOundation

In his literary scholarship, Miller researches how trends in early Modern or Renaissance thought emerged and were shaped by literature. He focuses on John Milton’s poetry and the development and writing of the King James Bible. His understanding of Renaissance theology and literature is changing how we understand foundational works of Christianity, philosophy, and literature.

6 – Kelly Lyttle Hernandez

Image via the Macarthur foundation

Kelly Hernandez is an American historian who challenges “long-held beliefs about the origins, ideology, and evolution of incarceration and immigrant detention practices in the United States.” Particularly poignant at a time like this, Hernandez’s writing chronicles how the history of racial violence in the American West intersects with the history of mass incarceration. Her 2017 book, City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965, centers the history of incarceration in the U.S. around Los Angeles, chronicling how targeted people and communities have always fought back.

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7 – Saidiya Hartman

Saidiya Hartman is a cultural historian who focuses on the legacy of slavery in America, giving a voice to the seldom-documented lives that are often erased from history. Her first book, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America, put forward her idea of “critical fabulation,” which challenged the authority of historical archives as the only source of genuine knowledge. Her latest book, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, similarly “immerses readers in the interior lives of young black women who fled the South and moved to Northern cities in the early twentieth century.”

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Featured image of Ocean Vuong via The MacArthur Foundation

Literary Canon Update

Have you ever been given a reading list that’s written, translated, and selected exclusively by and for men? Odds are you’ve rarely seen any that aren’t. If you want to appreciate the cannon while also living in a world where women exist, this is the list for you. These books and translations are some of the best and most lauded of all time, and yes, they’re by women.

It was, I must confess, a little hard to compile. The Odyssey was first translated by a woman only in 2017! But don’t despair. It’s all here for the taking.


The Iliad and the Odyssey


Homer’s epics have been translated MANY times, but these, by Caroline Alexander and Emily Wilson, respectively, set an incredible standard.


The Iliad



Close as can be to the ancient Greek, this translations has garnered heaping praise. “[T]he guard has changed, and a new gold standard has appeared”, said New Criterion at the volume’s publication. This edition even manages to retain the original line numbers from the Greek.


The Odyssey



This work, too, matches the original Greek as closely as possible. “A staggeringly superior translation―true, poetic, lively and readable, and always closely engaged with the original Greek”, said Harvard classics professor Richard F. Thomas. Iambic pentameter imitates the lyricism of the original Greek, and the volume also includes translation guides and maps.



Antigonik and An Oresteia



For both of these it is possible to turn to Anne Carson, a Canadian translator and classics professor. Carson’s translations are modern, elegant, and never condescending. In stead of translated, the works seem brought into the light, with all their strangeness and fierceness intact.



Jane Austen


How is it that Jane Austen, often the only woman on a reading list, is still under hyped? I had a guy in a bar tell me once that if people like Austen it’s because they haven’t read a lot of books. He really said that. Family conflict, human stories, and scathing humor makes Austen worth reading, with characters you really will love, and hate.


Pride & Prejudice


It’s a staple for a reason, and if you’re not sure you’ll relate to these people’s problems, you’re wrong. Fuckboys, impending poverty, poor decisions, and character growth you can get behind. Plus, it may be a period piece, but people still love their sisters. You’ll relate.



Jane Eyre



Another classic people want to avoid, but it has everything: deaths, fire, lies, weddings, blindness. I wouldn’t exactly call Jane a relateable character, but she’s understandable, I think, when you see everything she’s been through. And she’s incredibly decisive.




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