Three UCR Scholars Win Guggenheim Fellowships

Novelist Laila Lalami, poet Fred Moten and evolutionary biologist David Reznick will each receive $50,000 to further their work

Lalami Moten Reznick

Laila Lalami, Fred Moten and David Reznick (l-1) have won prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A novelist, a poet and an evolutionary biologist from the University of California, Riverside have been awarded prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships. They are Laila Lalami, professor of creative writing; Fred Moten, professor of English and poetry; and David Reznick, distinguished professor of biology.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded 175 Guggenheim Fellowships (including three joint fellowships) today to a diverse group of 178 scholars, artists, and scientists from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants. The fellowships are awarded “on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise,” the foundation said in announcing the recipients in New York City. This year marks the 92nd year of competition for the awards.

“These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” Edward Hirsch, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

The additions of Lalami, Moten and Reznick bring to 87 the number of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded to UC Riverside scholars since the campus opened in 1954. Each of the three 2016 recipients will receive a $50,000 award to support their research.

Laila Lalami, professor of creative writing, was a finalist in 2015 for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for her novel “The Moor’s Account” (Pantheon, 2014). The work of historical fiction  – the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America, a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record of the 1527 expedition of Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez – has won many additional awards, among them the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Fiction, an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and was a co-winner of the Arab American Book Award for Fiction. It also was shortlisted for Italy’s The Bridge Book Award, and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and Dublin International Literary Award. She is a regular columnist for The Nation. A recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and a Lannan Foundation Residency fellowship, last week she was named a Los Angeles Times Critic at Large. The Guggenheim Fellowship will support work on her novel, which is currently titled “The King of All Things.”

Fred Moten, professor of English, is a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award – which honors a poet at mid-career – for his poetry collection “The Little Edges” (Wesleyan University Press, 2014), and was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award in Poetry and the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry for another collection, “The Feel Trio” (Letter Machine Editions). He was recognized as one of 10 New American Poets by the Poetry Society of America, and is co-founder and co-publisher of a small literary press called Three Count Pour. The Guggenheim Fellowship will support a literary criticism project, “Hesitant Sociology: Blackness and Poetry.” “I’m trying to show that the logic of poetry, at the level of form and content, is a social logic; and that the theory of blackness, which is given and constantly enriched in social practice, is absolutely necessary for understanding, and for feeling, and for enacting that logic,” he explained.

David Reznick, distinguished professor of biology, is an evolutionary biologist whose groundbreaking research found that an individual’s response to environmental conditions may predict evolutionary changes in future generations. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences whose research has been supported by numerous grants from the National Science Foundation. He is the recipient of the E. O. Wilson Prize and is the author of “The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species” (Princeton University Press, 2009). The Guggenheim Fellowship will support his research project, “The Causes and Consequences of Contemporary Evolution.” Specifically, he said, the award will enable him to spend a year at Oxford University “developing some new quantitative skills and writing papers about the unheralded paradigm shift that has happened in our thinking about evolution. It used to be thought of as a historical process, meaning that it was too slow to see in action, so we learned about it from its footprints. It is now viewed as a contemporary process that can be studied in real time, but is also active in real time.”

Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted more than $334 million in fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, Turing Award winners, poets laureate, members of the various national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, and other important, internationally recognized honors.

This year’s recipients represent 50 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 71 academic institutions, 27 states and the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces. They range in age from 31 to 84.

According to the foundation, the Guggenheim Fellowship program remains an important source of support for artists, scholars in the humanities and social sciences, and scientific researchers. The foundation was established by U.S. Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his wife, Olga, as a memorial to a son who died April 26, 1922.

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