Ocean Vuong Named 2019 MacArthur Fellow

UMass Amherst Novelist and Poet to receive $625,000 ‘Genius Grant’
Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong

AMHERST, Mass. – Ocean Vuong, an assistant professor in the Masters of Fine Arts Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, today was named a 2019 MacArthur Fellow as a Poet and Fiction Writer.

Vuong, a poet and novelist, is the author of the current best-seller “On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous,” his first novel. The book was also recently long-listed for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential. Commonly called the “Genius Grant,” the Fellowship recognizes three criteria for selection: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments and potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

“The UMass Amherst community is extraordinarily proud to have Ocean Vuong among us,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “The MacArthur Fellowship celebrates his emerging status as a gifted writer who is a major voice of his generation and a creative force.”

Details about this year’s MacArthur Fellows and a history of the program can be found at: www.macfound.org/fellows.

The Fellowship is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional inclinations. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their Fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the Fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. The purpose of the Fellowship is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

The MacArthur Fellowship is the latest in a string of honors Vuong, age 30, has received. In 2018, he received the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for his debut poetry collection “Night Sky with Exit Wounds.” Additionally, the book also won the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. His writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Vuong is currently an artist-in-residence at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, working on the Center for Refugee Poetics.

Vuong becomes the fifth UMass Amherst faculty member to receive a Genius Grant. Past recipients include
Max Roach in 1988 for Music Performance and Composition, Marc Shell in 1990 for Literary History and Criticism, John Edgar Wideman in 1993 for Fiction and Non-Fiction Writing and Nancy Folbre in 1998 for Economics. Additionally, three alumni with master’s degrees in regional planning have received Genius Grants: Wesley Charles Jacobs, Jr. in 1987, Maria Varela in 1990 and Unita Blackwell in 1992.