The 2018 MacArthur Fellows Who Won This Year's 'Genius Grant' Include 3 Women Writers

by Kerri Jarema
Natalie Diaz; Photo courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Fellows Program has become pretty legendary since it was first awarded in 1981, and for good reason. The grant has become synonymous with excellence thanks to its rigorous selection process and commitment to awarding those who show not only innovation and creativity in their respective crafts, but their potential to make important contributions to our communities and society. The so-called MacArthur Genius Grant has been awarded to such well-known modern luminaries as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Alison Bechdel, and Jesymn Ward. In 2018, four more writers have joined the ranks — and three of them are women.

Natalie Diaz, Kelly Link, and Dominique Morisseau are all among the 25 people who were awarded the MacArthur grant this year, along with fellow writer John Keene. The grant comes with a no-strings-attached $625,000 award, which the MacArthur Foundation hopes will encourage the winners to continue to take risks, be innovative, and pursue their creative visions. This is great news for readers, writers, and theater lovers everywhere, who will no doubt benefit greatly from the future works of each of these women.

If you aren't caught up on this year's MacArthur Fellows, you can check out the entire group of 25 winners on the MacArthur website, and keep reading below for more info about Diaz, Link and Morisseau:

Natalie Diaz, Poet

Natalie Diaz; Photo courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Natalie Diaz uses her experiences as a Mojave and Latina woman to blend the personal, political and cultural in poems that challenge the mythological and cultural touchstones underlying American society. In her first collection, 2012's When My Brother Was an Aztec, Diaz reflects on her brother’s drug addiction, drawing upon Mojave, Greek, and Christian symbols to describe his destructive behavior and its effect on her family. The collection made the 2013 PEN/Open Book Award shortlist.

"I am one of two Native women (with Rebecca Sandefur) and one of two Latina women (with Livia S. Eberlin) who received the award. It makes me feel proud to be among this group of women," Diaz tells Bustle. "In these Americas (North and South) where the rates of indigenous femecide continues and increases, maybe we can be another place for our young indigenous women to look and find further confirmation that they are part of what makes America strong and beautiful and not what makes it weak and hateful. As much as indigenous women (again, from North and South America) are rooted to the history of Nationhood, we are also necessary to our country’s futurity. America will only be as possible as its indigenous peoples are."

Kelly Link, Fiction Writer

Kelly Link; Photo courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Kelly Link is a beloved short story writer who is known for pushing the boundaries between the realistic and the fantastic. She has published four books — Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, Pretty Monsters, and her most recent, 2015's Get in Trouble — all of which draw on genres such as fantasy, science fiction, and horror while also exploring the concerns of contemporary life. Her stories have won various awards including a 2005 Hugo Award, a 2013 O. Henry Award and a 2011 Shirley Jackson Award.

"Very few people, I suspect, become writers because they expect to make heaps of money. The same is true of small-press publishing. I’ve been very lucky as a writer and publisher: throughout my career, I’ve been able to write the kinds of stories that it seemed most interesting to me to write, and even more so, to publish the extraordinary work of other writers," Link says. "The MacArthur Fellowship will pay the bills as I continue, slowly, to work on a large and unwieldy novel. As for Small Beer Press and the zine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, that we’ve been putting out for 20 years now, we will continue to solicit and seek out novels and short fiction by writers who, like Sofia Samatar, Abbey Mei Otis, Claire G. Coleman, Ted Chiang, and Juan Martinez, expand our sense of [what] it is possible to achieve by drawing on the traditions and tropes of genres like science fiction and fantasy."

Dominique Morisseau, Playwright

Dominique Morisseau; Photo courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Dominique Morisseau is a playwright whose works portray the lives of individuals and communities grappling with economic and social changes, both current and historical. She uses her background as an actor and spoken-word poet to compose lyrical dialogue and construct complex characters. She has written six full-length plays, including her three play cycle, The Detroit Projects Detroit '67, Paradise Blue, and Skeleton Crew — which garnered the 2014 Edward M. Kennedy Prize, 2012 L. Arnold Weissberger Award, and the 2015 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.

Update: This story was updated on Oct. 15 to include quotes from Kelly Link and Natalie Diaz.