Meet the 6 Writers Who Just Won MacArthur “Genius” Grants

If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.

Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine are among the 2016 Fellows

Yesterday the MacArthur Foundation announced the fellows selected for the class of 2016. Among the 23 “geniuses,” are five writers who have been honored for their accomplishments in their respective crafts. Each winner will receive $625,000, which will be presented to them over the course of five years. They can spend the money however they choose, but there’s no doubt these master writers will use it to fund their work.

1. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins


New York, NY

Branden Jacob-Jenkins’s plays are highly acclaimed for creating new worlds in which his characters deal with contemporary topics like “identity, family, class, and race.”

2. Maggie Nelson


Faculty School of Critical Studies at California Institute of the Arts

Valencia, CA

Nelson is known in the literary community for her boundary breaking non-fiction work. Her books include The Red Parts, The Art of Cruelty, Bluets, and The Argonauts. Nelson told Newsweek, “I am beside myself with gratitude and incredulity for the award,” and, “I have no doubt that I will be able to focus more on my writing in the years to come, for which I am very grateful.”

Read Electric Lit’s review of Nelson’s The Argonauts and The Red Parts.

3. Claudia Rankine


Professor at Yale University, New Haven, CT

Claudia Rankine became a national icon with the 2014 release of her book, Citizen. She is hailed as one of the finest poets of our time. In her works she tackles issues of social justice and race relations in the United States.

Read our response to Rankine’s Citizen, here.

4. Lauren Redniss

Artist and Writer

Assistant Professor of Illustration at School of Art, Media, and Technology, Parson, NY

Redniss combines visual and literary forms in her work. The MacArthur Foundation believes “Redniss’s unique approach to visual storytelling enriches the ways in which stories can be conveyed, experienced, and understood.”

5. Sarah Stillman

Long-form Journalist

New York, New York

Sarah Stillman is a writer for the New Yorker. Stillman reports on issues that are often ignored by popular culture. Throughout her career she has covered stories related to “the perils faced by young police informants, and the kidnapping of undocumented children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

6. Gene Luen Yang

Graphic Novelist

San Jose, CA

Yang wrote most of his comics while working as a high school computer science teacher. A lot of Yang’s work deals with the issues surrounding the Chinese-American experience, and he is one of the forefront authors introducing diverse characters in children’s reading.

Check out the full list of geniuses in vocations ranging from bioengineering to jewelry making, here. Congrats to all the winners!

More Like This

The National Book Awards Put Black Lives at the Center

In the middle of the broadcast, a heartfelt video celebrated Black writers, acknowledged their erasure, and pledged to do better

Nov 19 - Jennifer Baker

Tell Us Your Favorite Fall Food and We’ll Tell You What National Book Award Nominee to Read

Apple cider donuts or pecan pie? Let us tell you what book to pair with your seasonal snacking

Sep 25 - Jae-Yeon Yoo

Announcing the Winners of the 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards

Six extraordinary emerging writers will receive grants of $30,000 each

Sep 15 - Electric Literature
Thank You!