(L-R) Look for Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward at a Benaroya Hall near you.
(L-R) Look for Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward at a Benaroya Hall near you. John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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This morning the MacArthur Fellowship announced their new class of geniuses, each of whom receive $625,000 "as an investment in their potential." Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen and novelist Jesmyn Ward count themselves among the winners. The prescient literary programers at Seattle Arts and Lectures just so happened to have invited Nguyen and Ward to speak at Benaroya early next year, so you better get your tickets soon.

As I wrote when SAL announced their line-up in April, Ward won the National Book Award in fiction in 2011 for Salvage the Bones. All of her novels (Where the Line Bleeds and The Men We Reaped) are about the lives of poor black families in rural Mississippi. Her latest work of fiction, Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel, continues in this tradition. The MacArthur Fellowship describes Ward's prose as "simultaneously luminous and achingly honest," capable of capturing "moments of beauty, tenderness, and resilience against a bleak landscape of crushing poverty, racism, addiction, and incarceration."

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She'll be coming to read at Benaroya Hall on Wednesday, January 17.

Nguyen wrote The Sympathizer, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. He believes we need to hear the story of the American invasion of Vietnam from more Vietnamese peoples' perspectives, and his work is certainly making headway in that direction. His latest is a book of short stories called The Refugees, which is about the multifaceted lives of people caught between countries. He's coming on Monday, May 7th.

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