Share 6 Fantastic Books by MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Winners

6 Fantastic Books by MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Winners

Alice Martin is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Rutgers University, where she obsesses over nineteenth-century women writers, the history of the publishing industry, and writing practices. She’s also a regular contributor to Shelf Awareness and a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Appalachian Heritage, and Sixfold among other publications. You can find her talking about books, food, and basketball (in that order) on Twitter @AliceJeanMartin.

MacArthur Foundation Fellowships are awarded to standout artists, scholars, researchers, and entrepreneurs to encourage their future creative and life-changing work. Each of these authors has met the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s criteria by displaying exceptional creativity and vision. Honor their accomplishments by picking up one of these books, all penned by once-in-a-lifetime thinkers and writers. From redefining the American road-trip novel to reimagining classic coming-of-age tales, these books all fearlessly pave the new ground ahead.


Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward

In this unforgettable National Book Award–winning epic, young Jojo must travel with his drug-addicted but well-meaning mother through the heart of the American South to meet his White father, who’s been recently released from prison. Along the way, Jojo and his family are haunted by ghosts of the past, the nuanced emotional conflicts of the present, and the uncertainty of their own futures in an America defined by prejudice, struggle, and hope.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward

WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller, this majestic, stirring, and widely praised novel from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, the story of a family on a journey through rural Mississippi, is a “tour de force” (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a timeless work of fiction that is destined to become a classic.

Jesmyn Ward’s historic second National Book Award–winner is “perfectly poised for the moment” (The New York Times), an intimate portrait of three generations of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. “Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love… this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it” (Buzzfeed).

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic and unforgettable family story and “an odyssey through rural Mississippi’s past and present” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
by Ocean Vuong

Written as a letter to a mother who cannot read, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a poetic exploration of life writing: what it means to tell your own story and for it to never be heard. In lyrical and expansive prose, speaker Little Dog first explores his past, centered in Vietnam, only to reveal his present, defined by a lifestyle his mother cannot understand, and gesture to a future beyond all imagining.

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Ocean Vuong

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Sag Harbor
by Colson Whitehead

Benji Cooper is one of the few black students at his elite Manhattan prep school. But every summer, Benji escapes to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own in the Hamptons. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that the summer of ’85 might be one for the ages.

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Sag Harbor
Colson Whitehead

Benji Cooper is one of the few black students at his elite Manhattan prep school. But every summer, Benji escapes to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own in the Hamptons. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that the summer of ’85 might be one for the ages.

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The Refugees
by Viet Thanh Nguyen

A man with dementia begins to confuse his wife for his previous lover. A Vietnamese girl is crestfallen when her sister returns from America with experiences she will never have. A Vietnamese refugee grapples with culture shock upon arriving in San Francisco. In this profound collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, characters struggle within the confines of identity and against the ambition of aspiration.

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The Refugees
Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Keep It Moving
by Twyla Tharp

How do you keep working? World-renowned choreographer, dancer, and exercise enthusiast Twyla Tharp has been asked that question countless times. She wrote this book as a response and intends it as a no-nonsense guidebook to engagement, motivation, and fulfillment. Filled with daily meditations, stories of Twyla’s own life, and priceless advice, Keep It Moving is a testament to the beauty of everyday living and the search for energy and joyfulness.

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Keep It Moving
Twyla Tharp

One of the world’s legendary artists and bestselling author of The Creative Habit shares her secrets—from insight to action—for harnessing vitality, finding purpose as you age, and expanding one’s possibilities over the course of a lifetime in her newest New York Times bestseller Keep It Moving.

At seventy-eight, Twyla Tharp is revered not only for the dances she makes—but for her astounding regime of exercise and nonstop engagement. She is famed for religiously hitting the gym each morning at daybreak, and utilizing that energy to propel her breakneck schedule as a teacher, writer, creator, and lecturer. This book grew out of the question she was asked most frequently: “How do you keep working?”

Keep It Moving is a series of no-nonsense mediations on how to live with purpose as time passes. From the details of how she stays motivated to the stages of her evolving fitness routine, Tharp models how fulfillment depends not on fortune—but on attitude, possible for anyone willing to try and keep trying. Culling anecdotes from Twyla’s life and the lives of other luminaries, each chapter is accompanied by a small exercise that will help anyone develop a more hopeful and energetic approach to the everyday.

Twyla will tell you what the beauty-fitness-wellness industry won’t: chasing youth is a losing proposition. Instead, Keep It Moving focuses you on what’s here and where you’re going—the book for anyone who wishes to maintain their prime for life.

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Fantastic Books by MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Winners

By Alice Martin | March 3, 2020

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Lost Children Archive
by Valeria Luiselli

A mother, father, son, and daughter are on a mission: to travel from New York to Arizona to reach Apacheria. Around them, the world is crumbling as thousands of children attempt to cross the southwestern border into the United States. Within their car, the world threatens to dissolve, too, as the ties that once held their family together strain under the weight of the trip and the fate of the world.

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Lost Children Archive
Valeria Luiselli

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