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Black Mountain Institute Announces 2016-17 Fellows

Eight writers will promote discourse on today's most pressing issues through residencies at UNLV.
Arts & Culture  |  Apr 6, 2016  |  By UNLV Media Relations
Media Contact: UNLV Office of Media Relations, mediarelations@unlv.edu or (702) 895-3102
podium and microphone at a Black Mountain Institute event

An Iranian exile, a prominent Los Angeles book critic and essayist, a scholar of Mormonism, and a former U.S. Marine are among fellows who will bring their scholarly research and writing expertise to UNLV's Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute (BMI) during the international literary center's 2016-17 cycle.

Devoted to bringing literary writers into the heart of public life, BMI annually offers residential fellowships — many of them as part of the Diana L. Bennett Fellows Program — to a handful of writers and public intellectuals. The fellowships carry a stipend of $30,000 per semester and an invitation to advance their work while engaging with the community at the innovative center named for its benefactor Beverly Rogers and its founder Carol C. Harter.

“One of the hallmarks of Black Mountain Institute is our international reach, and fellows for this coming year represent an stupendous range of experiences and connections around the world,” said Joshua Wolf Shenk, BMI’s executive director and writer-in-residence. “BMI’s residential fellowships have long been an important element of its programs to promote dialogue about the great concerns of the world through the literary arts.”

The fellows are:

  • Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar (Kenneth Barlow City of Asylum Fellow), an Iranian fiction writer and screenwriter whose works have been translated into multiple languages and banned in his native country;
  • Yelena Akhtiorskaya (Diana L. Bennett Fellow), the National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” author of the novel Panic in a Suitcase;
  • Jane Barnes (BMI/Kluge Center Fellow), a novelist, documentary filmmaker, and scholar of Mormonism;
  • Malena Mörling (Diana L. Bennett Fellow), a Swedish-American poet and translator and associate professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington;
  • David Morris (Eleanor Kagi Foundation Fellow), a former Marine infantry officer whose book The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize;
  • William Todd Schultz (BMI Fellow in Humanistic Studies), an academic psychologist and acclaimed psychobiographer;
  • David L. Ulin (Mary and Tom Gallagher Fellow), the longtime book critic of the Los Angeles Times and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow; and
  • Gabriel Urza (Diana L. Bennett Fellow), a former Reno public defender whose Basque ancestry inspired his novel All That Followed.

The primary fellowship program is named for the entrepreneur and philanthropist Diana L. Bennett, though Shenk said individual fellowships have often been supported by other donors. 

Indeed, Shenk said he expects more than $200,000 in additional commitments to the program for 2016-17, with fellowships supported by former Nevada Supreme Court Justice Miriam Shearing and the Tom and Mary Gallagher Foundation. Beverly Rogers, whose Rogers Foundation supports virtually every aspect of BMI programming, has personally pledged to support City of Asylum fellow Hossein Abkenar for an additional two semesters.

Shenk also announced a new fellowship, funded by the Eleanor Kagi Foundation: a Lynn M. Bennett Legacy, which will support two semesters of an Eleanor Kagi Foundation Fellow in Literature and Medicine. The inaugural recipient is David Morris, whose experience as a U.S. Marine led him to research and write a book on post-traumatic stress disorder.

BMI will also continue a partnership next year with the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Jane Barnes, the Kluge Fellow, will spend the fall semester at the unique research institute at the world’s largest library and the spring at BMI.