UI alumnus Daniel Alarcón receives MacArthur ‘genius grant’


Writer and radio producer Daniel Alarcón, who received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop in 2004, has been named the recipient of a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “engineering grant”.

Alarcón’s work explores the social, cultural, and linguistic ties that connect individuals from Spanish-speaking communities in the Americas. His work spans multiple mediums and languages, including fiction, non-fiction, English, Spanish, print and audio.

Although his work of fiction takes place in Latin American countries, none are directly named, and his novels Lost City Radio (2007) and At night we walk in circles (2013) take place in the wake of political violence – the first focusing on a radio show for and about missing persons and the second on the experiences of a traveling ensemble of performers. Both illustrate ways to cope with trauma and build community.

Alarcón’s most recent collection of stories, The king is always above the people (2017), focuses on the themes of immigration, betrayal, love, etc.

In 2012, Alarcón co-founded Walking Radio, a Spanish-language podcast that combines investigative journalism, interviews and storytelling to explore a wide range of topics, from migrants in the United States to “killer bees” in Brazil.

The podcast’s audience has grown exponentially, with over eight million downloads per year, while also being used for educational purposes by aspiring journalists and novice Spanish learners.

Alarcón recently expanded his audio projects with a weekly Spanish news podcast called El hilo, of which he is the editorial director. The podcast explores a host of relevant topics across the Americas over the past week. Past episodes have focused on the 2020 US presidential election and the COVID-19 crisis in South America.

Alarcón graduated from Columbia University in 1999. In addition to his MFA from Iowa, he has also been a teacher and advisor at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. He is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at Columbia University, and he is a contributing writer at The New Yorker, covering Latin America.

The MacArthur Fellowship Program awards unrestricted scholarships to talented individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative endeavors and a marked capacity for self-reliance. Each scholarship is accompanied by a stipend of $ 625,000, paid over five years.

Recent UI affiliate recipients include former instructor and cultural theorist Fred Moten (2020), alumnus and poet Ellen Bryant Voigt (2015), and alumnus and playwright Samuel D. Hunter (2014) .

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