Meet the 2021-2022 Fellows of the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers

By Lauren Goldenberg, Deputy Director, Cullman Center
April 5, 2021
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
The Cullman Center

The New York Public Library 's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers has selected its 23rd class of Fellows: 15 talented academics, literary artists, and independent scholars. The Fellows were selected from a pool of 506 applicants from 48 countries. The class of 2021 includes:

  • Academics Julia Foulkes, Kaiama L. Glover, David Greenberg, Karl Jacoby, Matthew Karp, and Nara Milanich; 
  • Poet Michael Prior;
  • Fiction writers David Wright Faladé, Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Maaza Mengiste, Josephine Rowe, and Madeleine Thien; and
  • Independent scholars Rich Benjamin, Lewis Hyde, and Avi Steinberg

"The past year has come with astounding challenges. In this renewed state of recovery and careful reconnection, I am grateful to be welcoming our new class of Fellows and the continuation of over 20 years of scholarship, collaboration, and the creation of original work," said Salvatore Scibona, the Sue Ann and John Weinberg Director of the Cullman Center.

During the Fellowship term, which runs from September through May, the 2021 class of Cullman Center Fellows will have access to the renowned research collections and resources of The New York Public Library, as well as the invaluable assistance of its curatorial and reference staff. The Fellows will also receive a stipend and the use of a private office in the Cullman Center 's quarters at The New York Public Library 's landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

Although The New York Public Library 's research centers, including the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, remain temporarily closed to the public due to COVID-19, they continue to offer virtual access to the Library 's collections through online databases, virtual reference support from librarians, and expanded Electronic Document Delivery. The current Fellows, following rigorous safety protocols, have had access to their offices at the Center throughout this Fellowship year, and the Library expects the new Fellows will as well.

The Center fosters an atmosphere of creative and scholarly collaboration both within the Library and in the larger cultural environment of New York, which includes hosting public Conversations from the Cullman Center, a series of free programs (currently offered virtually) that showcase the books Fellows worked on while in residence at the Library.

Cullman Center Fellows regularly receive distinguished honors and awards for these books.  Prize-winning and prominent Fellows include: André Aciman, Elif Batuman, David Blight, Ian Buruma, Jennifer Egan, Nathan Englander, Alvaro Enrigue, Hal Foster, Ian Frazier, Rivka Galchen, Annette Gordon-Reed, Anthony Grafton, Saidiya Hartman, Stephen Kotkin, Nicole Krauss, Hari Kunzru, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Hermione Lee, Larissa MacFarquhar, Megan Marshall, Ayana Mathis, Colum McCann, Richard McGuire, Pankaj Mishra, Lorrie Moore, C.E. Morgan, Joseph O'Neill, Téa Obreht, George Packer, Darryl Pinckney, Lauren Redniss, Sally Rooney, Karen Russell, Stacy Schiff, James Shapiro, Dash Shaw, Mark Stevens, T.J. Stiles, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Colm Tóibín, Wells Tower, Rosanna Warren, Colson Whitehead, and Alejandro Zambra.

For more information about the Cullman Center, its Fellows and its programs for teachers and the general public, visit

Meet the 2021-2022 Fellows at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers


Talk to Me: A Family Memoir

Rich Benjamin 's analyses of culture and politics appear regularly in public debate, including in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books Daily, as well as on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, and PBS. He is the author of Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America, which was selected for an Editor 's Choice award by the American Library Association. At the Cullman Center, Benjamin will be working on a family memoir that is also a portrait of America. The project combines archival research, oral history, political analysis, and lyricism.


The Collapsible Net: On Hunting Butterflies

Lewis Hyde is an essayist and cultural critic with a particular interest in the public life of the imagination. A MacArthur Fellow and former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University, Hyde taught writing and literature for many years at Kenyon College. Hyde is a trustee of MacDowell, a founding director of the Creative Capital Foundation, and the author of many books, including The Gift and Trickster Makes This World. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on The Collapsible Net, a meditation on searching for butterflies and, more broadly, on questions of why we go to nature and what we look for there.


What Is Hidden Cannot Be Loved: A Novel

The Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fellow

David Wright Faladé is the author of the forthcoming novel Black Cloud Rising (February 2022), a section of which appeared in the New Yorker. His first book, Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers, was one of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 's Best Books of 2001. His second, Away Running, was named an Outstanding International Book by the US Board on Books for Young People. A former Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, he teaches at the University of Illinois. At the Cullman Center, he will work on a novel, What Is Hidden Cannot Be Loved, which tells the story of an unlikely love triangle—between a Holocaust survivor, a Sorbonne student from colonial West Africa, and a black GI—set in the tumult and renewal of post-war Paris.


Culture City: The Arts and Everyday Life in New York

Julia Foulkes is on the faculty of the New School and is the author of A Place for Us: West Side Story and New York; To the City: Urban Photographs of the New Deal; Modern Bodies: Dance and American Modernism from Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey; and Realizing The New School: Lessons From the Past, with Mark Larrimore. She curated the exhibition Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York (New York Public Library for Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, 2018–19) and appeared in Netta Yerushalmy 's Paramodernities (2018) as a writer/speaker on Bob Fosse. At the Cullman Center, she will be working on a book about the rise of New York as a capital of culture in the 20th century.


For the Love of Revolution: René Depestre and the Poetics of a Radical Life

Kaiama L. Glover is Ann Whitney Olin Professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon and The Regarded Self: Caribbean Womanhood and the Ethics of Disorderly Being, as well as of numerous literary translations. She has received awards from the PEN/Heim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Mellon Foundation. She is founding co-editor of archipelagos | a journal of Caribbean digital praxis and founding co-director of the digital humanities project In the Same Boats: Toward an Afro-Atlantic Intellectual Cartography. She has contributed regularly to the New York Times Book Review and been a host on the PBS program History Detectives: Special Investigations. At the Cullman Center she will work on For the Love of Revolution, an intellectual biography of Franco-Haitian writer René Depestre that considers the complexities of radical Black subjecthood in the context of 20th-century leftist politics and poetics.


John Lewis: A Life in Politics

David Greenberg is a professor of history and of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. He is the author or editor of several books on American history and politics including Nixon 's Shadow: The History of an Image; Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency; Calvin Coolidge; and Alan Brinkley: A Life in History. Formerly acting editor of the New Republic and columnist for Slate, he now writes for Politico, among many other popular and scholarly publications. At the Cullman Center, he will be writing a biography of Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights leader, for Simon & Schuster.


Scar of Empire: the American Conquest of Northern Mexico and the Creation of the U.S.-Mexico Border

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow

Karl Jacoby is the Allan Nevins Professor of American History at Columbia University, where he also co-directs the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. His books include Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation; Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History, winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Award from the American Historical Association and special recognition from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights; and The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave who Became a Mexican Millionaire, which was awarded the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the Organization of American Historians and the Phillis Wheatley Award from the Harlem Book Fair. His essays and articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Politico, Daily Beast, and Public Books, among other venues. At the Cullman Center he will work on a history of the U.S.-Mexico War and the making of the U.S.-Mexico border.


Millions of Abolitionists: The Republican Party and the Political War Against Slavery

Matthew Karp is an associate professor of history at Princeton University, where he teaches classes on the US Civil War era. His first book, This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy, received prizes from the American Historical Association, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. His articles and reviews have appeared in the Journal of Southern History, the Journal of the Civil War Era, Catalyst, Jacobin, the Nation, and the Wall Street Journal. At the Cullman Center, he will work on a book about the rise of the Republican Party, and the emergence of antislavery mass politics in the years before the Civil War.


Ultra Light Beam

Jonas Hassen Khemiri is the author of five novels, six plays, and a collection of essays, plays, and short stories. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages and has appeared in the New York Times and the New Yorker. He received a Village Voice Obie Award for his first play Invasion! and in 2015 he was awarded the August Prize, Sweden's highest literary honor, for the novel Everything I Don't Remember. Khemiri 's latest novel, The Family Clause, was published in the US by FSG and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2020. At the Cullman Center he will work on a new novel.


A Brief Portrait of Small Deaths

The Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellow

Maaza Mengiste is the author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize and a recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, as well as a Los Angeles Times Books Prize finalist. It was named a best book of 2019 by the New York Times, NPR, Time, Elle, and other publications. Beneath the Lion's Gaze, her debut, was selected by the Guardian as one of the ten best contemporary African books. At the Cullman Center, she will work on her third novel, A Brief Portrait of Small Deaths, set during the interwar years in Berlin. It focuses on the lives of Afro-German models who sat for some of Germany 's greatest painters and follows their lives as Nazism takes hold of Germany.


The “Little Moor of Pisa”: A Transatlantic Family History

The John and Constance Birkelund Fellow

Nara Milanich is a professor of history at Barnard College, where she researches and teaches on the history of kinship, childhood, reproduction, and gender. Her most recent book, Paternity: The Elusive Quest for the Father, was a finalist for the PROSE Award of the Association of American Publishers and received coverage in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Salon, Scientific American, NPR, the CBC, and Time, among other places. As a Cullman Center Fellow, she will work on The “Little Moor of Pisa”: A Transatlantic Family History, which tells the story of a child born to an Italian woman and an African-American soldier in post-war Italy.


Wartime Measures

Michael Prior is the author of two collections of poetry: Burning Province, which received the 2020 Canada-Japan Literary Award, and Model Disciple. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, the New Republic, Narrative Magazine, the Sewanee Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Jerome Hill Foundation, Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers, and The Banff Center for the Arts, he is an assistant professor of English and a Mellon ACM Faculty Fellow at Macalester College. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on a new manuscript of poems that explores intergenerational memory and the incarceration of Japanese Canadians and Japanese Americans during the Second World War.


The Unframed Sky

The Janice B. and Milford D. Gerton / Arts and Letters Foundation Fellow

Josephine Rowe is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry, and essays. She has received fellowships from the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and the BR Whiting Studio in Rome. She is the author of three story collections and a novel, A Loving, Faithful Animal, and has twice been named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist. At the Cullman Center she will be researching a new novel that follows a lifelong friendship based upon art and activism, set in Tasmania, Sydney, New York, and Rome.


Grace Paley: A Life

The Jean Strouse Fellow

Avi Steinberg is the author of three books of narrative nonfiction published by Knopf Doubleday: Running the Books, The Lost Book of Mormon, and The Happily Ever After. His translation of the biblical story of David, published by Liveright, is forthcoming in 2022. He is a features writer for the New York Times Magazine, and a contributor to the culture desk of the New Yorker. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on a biography of Grace Paley.


The Happiness of the Many

Madeleine Thien is the author of four books of fiction, which have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Do Not Say We Have Nothing, her most recent novel, received Canada 's two highest literary honours, the Giller Prize and the Governor-General 's Literary Award for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the Women 's Prize for Fiction, and the Folio Prize. Her essays have been published in the New York Review of Books, Brick, the Guardian, the New York Times, Granta, and elsewhere. She teaches literature and writing at Brooklyn College. At the Cullman Center, she will be working on her fifth book, The Happiness of the Many, set in the Pearl River Delta and spanning past and future.

The Cullman Center

The Cullman Center is made possible by a generous endowment from Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman in honor of Brooke Russell Astor, with major support provided by Mrs. John L. Weinberg, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Estate of Charles J. Liebman, The von der Heyden Family Foundation, John and Constance Birkelund, and The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, and with additional gifts from Helen and Roger Alcaly, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Arts and Letters Foundation Inc., William W. Karatz, Merilee and Roy Bostock, and Cullman Center Fellows.