Speed Reads

macarthur geniuses

Meet the 2017 MacArthur 'geniuses'

One is an artist and geographer who has photographed some of the most top-secret locations on Earth. Another is a psychologist who explored if a radio soap opera could reduce prejudice in Rwanda. Yet another had planned to be a concert pianist before turning to science to understand how antibodies become more effective at fighting off pathogens. Together, they compose three of the 24 MacArthur fellows for 2017, a group of "exceptionally creative people" who have been awarded a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000, doled out over the next five years, to do with as they see fit.

"I had fantasized about that moment ever since I knew it existed," one of the recipients, Rhiannon Giddens, told The New York Times of winning the grant. Giddens' accomplishments include being the first woman and nonwhite banjoist to win a major prize.

Jason De León, an anthropologist who studies undocumented crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border, described himself as wearing "a lot of different hats," adding that "most of my career has been defined by making it up as I go along."

Other recipients include writers like the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker and another Pulitzer Prize winner, novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen. Jesmyn Ward — the author of Salvage the Bones and, most recently, Sing, Unburied, Sing — was awarded for "exploring the enduring bonds of community and familial love among poor African Americans of the rural South against a landscape of circumscribed possibilities and lost potential."

Read more about the recipients, and see the full list, at the MacArthur Foundation and The New York Times.