Georgetown Teacher, Alum Awarded MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Dinaw Mengestu writer, novelist, teacher and Georgetown University graduate was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant,” the university announced Oct. 2. The grant of $500,000 comes with no strings attached.

“The MacArthur Fellowship is not only a recognition of their impressive past accomplishments but also, more importantly, an investment in their potential for the future. We believe in their creative instincts and hope the freedom the Fellowship provides will enable them to pursue unfettered their insights and ideas for the benefit of the world,” said MacArthur head Robert Gallucci of the awardees.

Mengestu, an Ethiopian native who immigrated to the United States at the age of two, received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown College in 2000. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from Columbia University in 2005. He serves as Lannan Chair of Poetics of Georgetown University Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. He began teaching the course, “The Writer’s Perspective,” this fall. “Having the honor of coming back as the chair, more than anything, confirms the value of the program,” Mengestu said. “It was during my time as a Lannan fellow that I most profoundly felt that I had found a community of students who didn’t all necessarily want to be writers, but who were just as serious and engaged with literature as I was.”

His first two novels “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears,” published in 2007, and “How to Read the Air,” published in 2010, are about the Ethiopian immigrant experience. His next novel “All Our Names” is being finished. His journalism and fiction have also appeared publications including Harper’s, Granta, Rolling Stone, the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal.

Twenty-two others — including a pediatric neurosurgeon, a marine ecologist, an arts entrepreneur and a journalist — were awarded $500,000 grants in this year’s class.


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