Radio producer

“Genius grant” goes to writer and radio producer with ties to Alabama

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

Daniel Alarcón, originally from Peru who grew up in Birmingham and graduated from School of Indian Sources, is one of the 25 people selected as 2021 MacArthur Fellow. The honor is accompanied by an unrestricted allowance of $ 625,000 paid over five years.

“I’m still processing,” Alarcón said in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), which distributes Walking Radio, a Spanish-language podcast he created with his wife that focuses on journalism and storytelling on a range of topics touching Latin America 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 a real curiosity. I am really interested in people’s stories. When I ask them questions, I really want to hear the answers, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, whether it’s print or audio, whether it’s English or Spanish.

In the NPR interview, Alarcón, 44, who now lives in New York and teaches at Columbia university, stressed that his bucolic education in Alabama – juxtaposed with the violent upheavals taking place at the same time in his native Peru – was decisive in shaping his vision of the world.

Two of his novels, “Lost City Radio“(2007) and”At night we walk in circles”(2013), take place as a result of political violence in unnamed Latin American countries. His most recent book, “The king is always 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 extended his audio journalism work with a weekly Spanish news podcast, El hilo, where he holds the position of editorial director. El hilo “engages journalists and experts across the Americas to unbox the most relevant news from Latin America.

“Adept at many types of media, Alarcón gives voice to the diverse experiences of Latin Americans and Hispanics across borders,” says the bio.

Alarcón is not the only recent MacArthur Fellow with ties to Alabama.

In all, there was 10 scholarship holders appointed who are from the state and four that were in Alabama at the time of their award. Among the best known with Alabama ties are the rural doctor Regina Benjamin, human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, environmental health advocate Catherine Coleman Flowers and responsible for childcare Sophie bracy harris.

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

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