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The New York Public Library's Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers Announces 2013-2014 Fellows


David Grann, Téa Obreht, Anthony Grafton, Uwem Akpan among 2013-14 Cullman Center Fellows


MARCH 25, 2013 – The New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers has selected its fifteenth class of Fellows: 15 extraordinarily talented independent scholars, academics, and creative writers. The Fellows were chosen from a pool of 313 applicants from 38 countries.  With a diverse array of people originally from Nigeria, Turkey, England, Argentina, and Serbia, the class of 2013 includes:
  • The fiction writers Téa Obreht, Rajesh Parameswaran, Paul La Farge, and Uwem Akpan.
  • The historians Linda Colley and Anthony Grafton.
  • The journalists Arthur Lubow, Elizabeth Rubin, Elif Batuman, and David Grann.
“I heartily congratulate the Cullman Center’s new class of Fellows and welcome them to The New York Public Library,” said NYPL President Tony Marx.  “I have the honor and privilege of serving as President of this great institution, which allows me to understand what a grand opportunity it is to do research in such beautiful surroundings, collaborate with dedicated and talented staff, and find inspiration on a daily basis.  I wish our new Fellows the very best in their projects and look forward to the results of their wonderful year here at The New York Public Library.”
As they work on book projects that range from biographies of the photographer Diane Arbus (Arthur Lubow) and the choreographer Bronislava Nijinkska (Lynn Garafola) to emerging Jewish communities in 21st-century Latin America (Graciela Mochkofsky), the translation of Uwe Johnson’s fictional masterpiece, Jahrestage (Damion Searls), international law in Imperial Russia (Peter Holquist), and colonial failure on the West African coast (Christopher Brown),the fellows will have full access to the incomparable research collections and online resources of The New York Public Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. They will be in residence at the Center from September 2013 through May 2014.
“I’m tremendously excited about this spectacular new class of Fellows,” says Jean Strouse, the Sue Ann and John Weinberg Director of the Cullman Center, “and very much look forward to having them all here next year. It is a great privilege for everyone at the Library to help Fellows do their important work, to learn in depth about their projects, to enhance the visibility of our collections and resources, and to expand public conversations about creative new ideas.  The chemistry within each group of fellows is unique – and with such a range of backgrounds, fields, and topics for 2013-14, it promises to give off sparks!”
Each Fellow receives a stipend, a private office in the Cullman Center’s handsome quarters on the second floor of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and the invaluable assistance of the Library’s curatorial and reference staff.
The Center fosters an atmosphere of creative and scholarly collaboration both within the Library and in the larger cultural environment of New York, through informal lunches and evening public programs.
Many Cullman Center Fellows publish critically-acclaimed works based on the research and writing they do while in residence at the Library. Former Fellow Maya Jasanoff won the 2011 National Book Critics' Circle Award for Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, the book she worked on at the Cullman Center. Karen Russell’s novel Swamplandia was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, and Deborah Baker and Lauren Redniss were both finalists for the 2011 National Book Award in Nonfiction for The Convert and Radioactive, respectively.
Other recent books by Cullman Center Fellows include Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad; Hari Kunzru’s Gods without Men; Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia; David Blight’s A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom; Nathan Englander’s The Ministry of Special Cases; John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead; Andrew Meier’s The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service; Nicole Krauss’s Great House; James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, and T.J. Stiles’s The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award). 
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, John and Constance Birkelund, The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, and additional gifts from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Helen and Roger Alcaly, Mel and Lois Tukman, The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, William W. Karatz, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, Mary Ellen von der Heyden, Merilee and Roy Bostock, Lybess Sweezy and Ken Miller, and Cullman Center Fellows.
For more information about the Center, its current and former Fellows, and its programs for teachers and the general public, visit
About the 2013-2014 Fellows at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers

Uwem Akpan
Las Vegas, My Village, A Novel

Uwem Akpan’s short story collection, Say You’re One of Them, has been translated into ten languages, and The New Yorker  has published several of his stories.His awards include the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize (Africa Region), the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. A Catholic priest, Akpan divides his time between his native Nigeria and the United States. While at the Cullman Center, he will be writing a novel called Las Vegas, My Village.

Elif Batuman
The Two Lives, A Novel

Elif Batuman is a staff writer for The New Yorker  and the author of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, which was a finalist for a 2010 National Book Critic Circle’s Award. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and a Whiting Writers’ Award. For the past three years, she has been writer-in-residence at Koç University in Istanbul. At the Cullman Center, she will be working on her first novel, The Two Lives.

Christopher Brown
The Province of Senegambia: Colonial Failure on the West African Coast
The Gilder Lehrman Fellow

Christopher Brown is a Professor of History and the Director of the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University. His publications include Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age, co-edited with Philip Morgan, and Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism, which received both the James Rawley Prize in Atlantic History and the Morris D. Korkosch Prize in British History from the American Historical Association, as well as the Frederick Douglass Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Resistance. At the Cullman Center, he will be writing a book on European and African relations along the Senegal and Gambia Rivers in the era of the Atlantic slave trade.

Linda Colley
Between Liberty and Empire: Writing Constitutions, 1776-1914
The Birkelund Fellow

Linda Colley is the Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at Princeton University. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Society of Literature, and the Academia Europea. She writes regularly for the London Guardian, The London Review of Books, and The New Republic. Her five books include Britons: Forging the Nation, for which she won the Wolfson Prize, Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850, and The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History, which the New York Times judged one of the ten best books of 2007. At the Cullman Center, she will be completing a new book on the connections between the making and re-making of empires after 1776 and the writing and dissemination of constitutions.

Lynn Garafola
Bronislava Nijinska: A Choreographer’s Journey

Lynn Garafola is a Professor of Dance at Barnard College, Columbia University. Two of her ten books are Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance. She has written extensively about dance in Europe and the United States, and she has curated major exhibitions about the New York City Ballet and Jerome Robbins. While at the Cullman Center, she will be researching and writing a book about the choreographer Bronislava Nijinska.

Anthony Grafton
Sacred History in Sixteenth Century Europe: Early Modern Scholars and the Early Church

Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History and the Humanities at Princeton University. His books include Defenders of the Text; The Footnote: A Curious History; and Worlds Made by Words. He writes for The American Scholar, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The London Review of Books, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Times Literary Supplement, among other publications. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships in Europe and in America, including the Balzan Prize for History of the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities, Grafton is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a corresponding fellow of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften and the British Academy. At the Cullman Center, he will be writing a book on histories of Christianity in sixteenth-century Europe.

David Grann
A history of the Osage Indian murders
The David Ferriero Fellow
David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker  and the author of two books: The Devil and Sherlock Holmes  and The Lost City of Z, which was named one of the best books of 2009 by The New York Times and received the Indies Choice Award for best work of nonfiction that year. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages, and he is a recipient of a George Polk Award. At the Cullman Center, he will work on a book about the murders of Osage Indians in Oklahoma in the 1920s.

Peter Holquist
“By Right of War”: The Discipline and Practice of International Law in Imperial Russia, 1868-1917
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow

An Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, Peter Holquist is the author of Making War, Forging Revolution: Russia's Continuum of Crisis, and the founder and executive editor of the journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. He has published widely on Russia's experience in the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and questions of continuity and change from the imperial period into the Stalin era. At the Cullman Center, he will be writing a book on the codification and extension of the laws of war in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  

Paul La Farge,
The Night Ocean, A Novel

Paul La Farge is the author of three novels and a collection of fictitious dreams. His short stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, McSweeney's, Cabinet, Conjunctions, Fence, The Believer, and Bookforum. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and a recipient of the Bard Fiction Prize. A web-based version of his most recent novel, Luminous Airplanes, can be found at

Arthur Lubow
A Biography of Diane Arbus

Arthur Lubow has written about culture and artists for national magazines for over thirty-five years. He has been a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, and other publications. He is the author of The Reporter Who Would Be King, a life of the turn-of-the-century American war correspondent Richard Harding Davis. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on a biography of Diane Arbus.

Graciela Mochkofsky
Conversion: The New Jews of Latin America
Graciela Mochkofsky is the author of six books, including Tío Boris. Un héroe olvidado de la Guerra Civil Española,a narrative essay on her great uncle who fought in the Spanish Civil War, and Pecado Original: Clarín, los Kirchner y la lucha por el poder, an investigation of the Kirchner government’s war against the media group Clarín. Her book La Revelación tells the story of a Peruvian Catholic community that converted to Ultra Orthodox Judaism and emigrated to the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In 2009, she was a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. During her time at the Cullman Center, she will be working on a book and a documentary film about a wave of emerging Jewish communities in Latin America.

Téa Obreht
Untitled novel
The Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellow

Téa Obreht was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1985 and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. Her first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a 2011 National Book Award Finalist. Her writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Vogue, Esquire, and The Guardian, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. The New Yorker named her one of its “20 Under 40” best American fiction writers in 2010, and the National Book Foundation honored her on its list of “5 Under 35.” She will be working at the Cullman Center on a novel about a desolate Balkan community in turmoil over the building of an allegedly miraculous tower.

Rajesh Parameswaran
Barren Island , A Novel

Rajesh Parameswaran is the author of the short story collection I Am an Executioner: Love Stories, which was selected as one of The Washington Post's  "50 Notable Works of Fiction for 2012." His work has appeared in The Best American Magazine Writing, Fiction, Granta, McSweeney’s, and Zoetrope: All-Story. Parameswaran has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Ucross Foundation, and Yaddo. His story “The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan” was one of three that earned McSweeney's the 2007 National Magazine Award for fiction. At the Cullman Center, Parameswaran will research and write his first novel.

Elizabeth Rubin
Chasing Kony

An independent journalist, Elizabeth Rubin has reported extensively about international conflicts from Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa, for publications including The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Bidoun, Vogue, Time, and National Geographic. Recently, she has been working on Studio Kabul, a documentary about Afghan soap opera actresses. She has received numerous awards, including Columbia College’s John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional. She has been a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and an Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. At the Cullman Center she will be working on a book about three men who tried to change the world: one with guns, one with laws, and one with social media, storytelling, and faith.

Damion Searls 
Uwe Johnson, Anniversaries (translation)
Damion Searls has translated fifteen books from German, French, Norwegian, and Dutch, edited a one-volume abridgment of Henry David Thoreau’s The Journal: 1837-1861, and compiled all the passages cut from a 2007 abridgment of Moby Dick into a volume called ; or The Whale. He is the author of What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going (stories) and a forthcoming cultural history of the Rorschach Test that is also the first biography of Hermann Rorschach. At the Cullman Center, he will be working on the first complete translation of Uwe Johnson’s 1900 page novel about a German single mother and her daughter in New York City over the course of a year.
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