Novelist and short-story writer Manuel Muñoz, M.F.A. ’98, has been awarded a $800,000 “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The MacArthur Fellowships are bestowed with no conditions for how the money is to be used. Awarded annually, they honor people from a wide variety of fields who have demonstrated exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits.
In his writing, Muñoz draws on his roots growing up in a Mexican-American family of farmworkers in California’s Central Valley to explore the impacts of racial politics and limited economic opportunities in this region. His tells the stories of a wide spectrum of people, including mothers and sons, U.S.-born citizens and immigrants, young gay men and teenage parents.
“Coming from very humble beginnings as a farmworker, here was this young man who is the youngest child of a large family who just by sheer intelligence, talent and humility gets a scholarship to Harvard, and then decides to apply to M.F.A. programs,” said Helena María Viramontes, professor of literatures in English in the College of Arts and Sciences, whom Muñoz has described as a mentor. “From our application pool at the time I remember his manuscript as being so strong we all agreed he should be admitted.”
She called him a master of the short story and said his most recent collection, “The Consequences,” is particularly special. “I’m not surprised that each time he wrote a collection he just got better and better and better,” she said.
Muñoz, who is professor of English at the University of Arizona, has published three story collections, “Zigzagger” (2003), “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue” (2007), and “The Consequences” (2022), as well as the novel “What You See in the Dark” (2011). He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1994.
Muñoz will be on campus Saturday, Oct. 21, to give a reading as part of a conference on Chicana feminism, “Lest Silence Be Destructive: A Celebration of Chicana Feminism and the Work of Helena María Viramontes.”