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Black Professor Awarded the ‘Genius Grant’ with $800K Stipend For His Literary Work

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Kiese Laymon, an award-winning author and English professor at Rice University in Houston, Texas, has been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, the prestigious honor commonly known as the “genius grant.” The award comes with an $800,000 stipend that he plans to use “to work on artful connections between middle school students in Houston and Jackson, MS.”

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“I’m not big into awards and recognition, but this one feels special,” Laymon said, according to Rice University News. “Revision and Mississippi did this. I’m just thankful. Some really incredible people thought my work was OK. That’s a big deal to me.”

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Laymon was chosen as one of the few across the globe to become MacArthur Fellows in 2022. The so-called “genius grants” were given annually by the MacArthur Foundation since 1981 to 20 or more people who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits.

In January 2022, Laymon joined the School of Humanities at Rice University as the Libbie Shearn Moody Professor of Creative Writing and English. Within just a few months, he made history as the first member of the university’s School of Humanities to earn a MacArthur Fellowship. Overall, he is the second faculty member at Rice University to be selected for the award.

Laymon, who is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, is also an acclaimed author that highlights the forms of violence that mark the Black experience through his written essays, memoirs, and fiction.

Some of his famous works are the novel Long Division, which won the 2022 NAACP Image Award for fiction, and the essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, which was named a New York Times notable book of 2021. His best-selling memoir Heavy: An American Memoir won multiple awards and was also one of The New York Times‘ 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years.

Laymon also founded the Catherine Coleman Literary Arts and Justice Initiative which aims to inspire young people in Jackson to become more comfortable reading, writing, and sharing their life stories.

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Written by How Africa News

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