Junot Diaz is officially a genius.
The Dominican-American author was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation genius grant by the MacArthur Fellows Program.
“I guess I’m going to try to write a crazy monster book now,” 43-year-old Diaz told Bloomberg. “This award grants me extraordinary leeway.”
Upon news of being nominated for the prestigious grant, Diaz told the Associated Press, “It left me thinking about my childhood.”
To date there have been 873 recipients of the MacArthur Foundation genius grant including 23 this year. Each year the MacCarthur Foundation selects nominators in various fields who then select nominees who show extraordinary originality and talent in their fields. The “no strings attached” grant allows the recipients to pursue creative projects without having to report on their spending, be evaluated or submit a report on their work.
Diaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey from his adolescence. The fiction writer’s books depict the many challenges in immigrant’s lives and eloquently speaks to the Caribbean diaspora.
“It would never have dawned on me to think such a thing was possible for me,” Diaz told AP, “struggling with poverty, struggling with English. … I came from a community that was about as hard-working as you can get and yet no one saw or recognized in any way our contributions or our genius. … I have to wonder, but for circumstances, how many other kids that I came up with are more worthy of this fellowship than me?”
MacArthur Foundation genius grant allows for Diaz’s next book
The $500,000 MacArthur Foundation genius grant is paid in quarterly installments over five years to recipients whose area of expertise ranges from science, the arts, teaching to entrepreneurship.
Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008 for, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” a novel that took 11 years to complete. Diaz recently published “This Is How You Lose Her,” a selection of short stories on love and infidelity. The author took 16 years to finish “This is How to Lose Her” and says like with past works he’ll be patient with his next book, reports Bloomberg.
Diaz is a Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Writing and Humanistic Studies program.
Other authors awarded the 2012 MacCarthur Foundation genius grant are: the Washington Post’s David Finkel who wrote “The Good Soldiers,” and journalist and author Dinaw Mengestu of “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.
Watch Junot Diaz’s MacCarthur Foundation grant interview
2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant winners
Junot Diaz, Fiction writer
David Finkel, Journalist
Dinaw Mengestu, Author
Natalia Almada, Documentary Filmmaker
Uta Barth, Conceptual Photographer
Claire Chase, Arts Entrepreneur
Raj Chetty, Public Economist
Maria Chudnovsky, Mathematician
Eric Coleman, Geriatrician
Olivier Guyon, Optical Physicist and Astronomer
Elissa Hallem, Neurobiologist
An-My Lê, Photographer
Sarkis Mazmanian, Medical Microbiologist
Maurice Lim Miller, Social Services Innovator
Dylan C. Penningroth, Historian
Terry Plank, Geochemist
Laura Poitras, Documentary Filmmaker
Nancy Rabalais, Marine Ecologist
Benoît Rolland, Stringed-Instrument Bow Maker
Daniel Spielman, Computer Scientist
Melody Swartz, Bioengineer
Chris Thile, Mandolinist and Composer
Benjamin Warf, Pediatric Neurosurgeon