Tulane English professor awarded MacArthur ‘genius grant’

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NEW ORLEANS – A celebrated author and associate professor of English at Tulane University has been named a 2017 MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of one of the coveted “genius grants.”

Jesmyn Ward will receive a $625,000 stipend from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which will be paid out in quarterly installments over the next five years.

The grants are unique in that they do not come with restrictions of any kind and are designed to allow the recipients the freedom to pursue their own creative activities.

“When I received the call from the MacArthur Foundation, I was pretty shocked and speechless because it wasn’t the kind of call I was expecting,” Ward said. “Since the call, everything has felt so surreal to me and it has really taken a while to sink in. It’s a life-changing award. It means that people are looking at your body of work and seeing, and it’s validation that I must be doing something right. The award and the great gift are both pretty incredible.”

Ward, who joined the faculty of Tulane in 2014, won the 2011 National Book Award for her novel Salvage the Bones, and has written four other critically acclaimed books.

She also received the Strauss Living Award for literary excellence in 2016 from the Academy of Arts and Letters.

“Tulane is privileged to have such an accomplished and esteemed author on our faculty. Jesmyn’s books are modern masterpieces and her designation as a MacArthur Fellow is richly deserved. I know the entire university joins me in congratulating her,” Tulane President Michael A. Fitts said.