Radio producer

‘Genius grant’ goes to writer and radio producer with Alabama ties

A writer and radio producer with ties to Alabama is among the latest recipients of a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation.

Daniel Alarcón, a native of Peru who grew up in Birmingham and graduated from Indian Springs School, is among 25 people selected as the 2021 MacArthur Fellow. The honor comes with an unlimited stipend of $625,000 paid out of five years.

“I’m still processing,” Alarcón said in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), which distributes Radio Ambulante, a Spanish-language podcast he created with his wife that focuses on journalism and storytelling on a range of Latin American topics. and Latin culture.

“Stories are how we create communities, stories are how we define who we are,” Alarcón said in a video released by the MacArthur Foundation. “I think what unites all my work is genuine curiosity. I’m really interested in people’s stories. When I ask them questions, I really want to hear the answers, whether in fiction or non-fiction, whether in print or audio, whether in English or Spanish.

In the NPR interview, Alarcón, 44, who now lives in New York and teaches at Columbia University, highlighted his bucolic upbringing in Alabama — juxtaposed with the violent upheavals unfolding at the same time in his native Peru — as fundamental to shaping his worldview.

Two of his novels, “Lost City Radio” (2007) and “At Night We Walk in Circles” (2013), are set in the wake of political violence in unnamed Latin American countries. Her most recent book, ‘The King is Still Above the People’ (2017), a collection of stories, explores issues of migration, family and broken dreams that sometimes take fantastic turns.

A biography published by the MacArthur Foundation notes that Alarcón recently expanded his audio journalism work with a Spanish weekly news podcast, El hilo, where he serves as editorial director. El hilo “engages journalists and experts across the Americas to unpack the most relevant news from Latin America.

“Adept in many types of media, Alarcón gives voice to the diverse experiences of Latin Americans and Spanish speakers across borders,” the bio states.

Alarcón isn’t the only recent MacArthur scholar with ties to Alabama.

In all, there have been 10 nominated fellows from the state and four who were in Alabama at the time of their award. Among the best-known ties to Alabama are rural physician Regina Benjamin, human rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, environmental health advocate Catherine Coleman Flowers, and childcare manager Sophia Bracy Harris. .

To date, 1,086 fellows have been nominated since the program’s inception in 1981. The program awards unrestricted fellowships to “talented individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative endeavors and ‘a marked capacity for autonomy’.

Learn more at www.macfound.org.