The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today the twenty-four recipients of this year's "Genius" Fellowships. The fellows working in the literary arts are poet Heather McHugh, fiction writer and memoirist Edwidge Danticat, and short story writer Deborah Eisenberg. They will each receive one hundred thousand dollars every year over the course of five years.
"It felt incredibly, wonderfully surreal,” Danticat told the Felicia R. Lee of the New York Times. "What artists crave and need most is time. It will definitely buy some time. It’s wonderful to have a sense of security, especially in these economic times."
Danticat's most recent book is the memoir Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf, 2007), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors. Eisenberg is the author of four story collections, including Twilight of the Superheroes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). The latest book from McHugh, who has also worked in translation and essay, is the poetry collection Upgraded to Serious, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in October.
As 2009 MacArthur fellows, the three writers are in the company of artists working in media including painting, documentary film, and photojournalism, as well as luminaries in other disciplines. Recipients this year include an ornithologist, a papermaker, a climate scientist, a mental health lawyer, a bridge engineer, a biogeochemist, and an applied mathematician.
The no-strings grants are given in the anticipation of independent creative achievement in the future—that is, according to MacArthur Foundation president Robert Gallucci, "We're looking for you to continue in a creative way, without anyone looking over your shoulder."