N. K. Jemisin has been named a MacArthur Fellow

A well-deserved honor

N. K. Jemisin has been named a MacArthur Fellow
Photo: Laura Hanifin

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced this year’s class of MacArthur Fellows, and amongst the recipients is Broken Earth trilogy and The City We Became author N. K. Jemisin.

In a video, the foundation highlighted Jemisin’s achievements, saying that her works immerse readers “in intricately imagined worlds and gripping narratives while exploring deeply human questions about racism, environmental crises, and familial relationships. Her novels push against conventions of science fiction and she is expanding the spectrum of participants in the creation of speculative fiction.”

In a Tweet of her own, Jemisin said that she was “absolutely stunned” at the news, which she’s had to keep quiet for weeks.

"OK! Whew. I can finally let the cat out of the bag, but I am part of this year's class of MacArthur Fellows! In AMAZING company with folks like @tressiemcphd. I've been sitting on the news for a couple of weeks but am still absolutely stunned."

The MacArthur Foundation is designed to support “creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world,” and its fellow recipients are often called “genius awards.” The foundation selects from a three-part criteria: they demonstrate “exceptional creativity,” they show “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and the “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.” Recipients are awarded $625,000, which comes with no requirements—they can spend it however they wish.

For this year’s recipients, the foundation managing director Cecilia Conrad says that “this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration” amidst “civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations.”

“They are asking critical questions, developing innovative technologies and public policies, enriching our understanding of the human condition, and producing works of art that provoke and inspire us.”

In earning the fellowship, Jemisin joins a rarefied group of individuals—and a small group of fellow speculative fiction writers, including Kelly Link (2018), Karen Russell (2013), Junot Díaz (2012), Colson Whitehead (2002), and Octavia Butler (1995).