Columbia University School of the Arts Writing Program alumnus Dinaw Mengestu (’05) has received a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Mengestu, a native of Ethiopia, explores the world of the African diaspora in America in his novels and nonfiction writings. The MacArthur Fellowship is a $500,000 grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.
“It is a most deserving tribute to a superb writer who tackles some of the most complex issues of our time,” said Carol Becker, Dean of Faculty at Columbia University School of the Arts.
Mengestu’s debut novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2008), was translated into 12 languages, named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and received the Guardian First Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Mengestu’s second book, How to Read the Air (2010), explores the transformation of the immigrant experience through the increasing flow of information and people between their adopted homes and their countries of origin. For his work in fiction, Mengestu has been named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” and one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40.”
As a freelance journalist, Mengestu has traveled to war-torn regions of sub-Saharan Africa to write about life in Darfur, northern Uganda and eastern Congo near the border with Rwanda. In addition to his MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts, Mengestu has a BA (2000) from Georgetown University. His journalism and fiction have appeared in Harper’s, Granta, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal, among others.
Mengestu is one of 23 fellows to receive MacArthur “genius” grants this year. Also named to the 2012 class are writer Junot Diaz and Columbia University professors Maria Chudnovsky (Mathematician) and Terry Plank (Geochemist).
About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places and understand how technology is affecting children and society.