In refreshingly positive news, out poet and former refugee Ocean Vuong has been selected as a recipient of one of this year’s MacArthur Fellowship grants.
The award is commonly referred to as the “Genius Grant.” Unofficially, of course.
The 30-year-old poet and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The Guardian reports his family was forced to leave the country because of their mixed-race ancestry. Vuong’s grandfather was a U.S. soldier who fought in the Vietnam War, where he fell in love Vuong’s grandmother, a poor girl from a rural town.
Vuong and his family moved to Connecticut in 1990 after spending a year in a refugee camp in the Philippines.
“Because of the precarious nature of my own history I don’t like to be confined to any genre, given any label,” Vuong said of his upbringing as it relates to his writing. “Ultimately, we’re all just writing sentences and telling stories.”
He released a poetry book in 2016 titled Night Sky With Exit Wounds and also writes fiction. His 2019 debut novel is On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. His writing has already earned him several awards, including the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and the Whiting Award for Poetry.
Below, watch a MacArthur Foundation profile on Vuong released Wednesday: