Dinaw Mengestu and Dylan C. Penningroth Win “Genius Awards”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago has announced this year’s class of 23 MacArthur Fellows. The fellowships, often referred to a “Genius Awards,” offer scholars, artists, writers, and performers $500,000 in unrestricted support for the following five years. Winners also receive health insurance.

Among the 23 winners this year are Ethiopian-born writer Dinaw Mengestu and Northwestern University historian Dylan C. Penningroth.

Dinaw Mengestu came to the United States with his family when he was 2 years old. His debut novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, deals with the experiences of an Ethiopian refugee growing up in a gentrifying neighborhood of Washington. His second novel, published in 2010, is How to Read the Air, which explores the relationship between immigrants in their adopted homes and family in their native country.

Mengestu is a graduate of Georgetown University and holds a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University.

Dylan C. Pennigroth is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He is a graduate of Yale University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Penningroth’s 2002 book The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South (University of North Carolina Press), documents property ownership of slaves and free Blacks in the South. He is following up with a new book on property ownership of Blacks in the decades following the Civil War.


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