Pulitzer prize-winning author Junot Diaz and award-winning filmmaker Natalia Almada are among the 23 new MacArthur Fellows for 2012.
They will each receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. The MacArthur awards, also known as “genius grants,” are given to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” The money awards are supposed to help “extraordinary” individuals to freely pursue their interests without having to deal with a financial burden.
Junot won the Pulitzer in 2008 for his novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” His most recent published work, “This is How You Lose Her,” is a collection of short stories, for which he was named a finalist in the fiction category for the National Book Awards – just yesterday.
Originally born in the Dominican Republic, Junot, who’s also a creative writing professor at MIT, says he’s “an obsessed writer when it comes to the Dominican Republic, its history, its diasporas and its communities.” You can see his MacArthur Fellow video profile and learn more about his work on his site.
Natalia is the recipient of the 2009 Sundance Documentary Directing Award for her film “El General.” Her most recent film “El Velador” premiered at New Directors/New Films and the Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. Her feature documentaries have broadcast on the award-winning series POV.
Born in Mexico and raised there and the U.S., her work focuses on Mexican history, politics, and culture and addresses social issues. You can see her MacArthur Fellow video profile and learn more about her work on her site.