Two Rutgers University–Newark Faculty Take Home 2015 Guggenheim Grants

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Two Rutgers University–Newark professors have been awarded prestigious John Simon Guggenheim fellowships in the humanities for 2015.

History Professor Beryl Satter, whose 2009 book, Family Properties, garnered widespread acclaim, was awarded a $50K grant to work on her follow-up project, titled ShoreBank, Development, and the Fight Against Black Economic Marginalization.

MFA Professor Akhil Sharma, whose latest novel, Family Life, recently won the prestigious Folio prize for fiction, is the recipient of a $50K grant to work on a collection of short stories titled Cosmopolitan. Sharma is halfway done with the book, and several stories destined for the collection already have been published in The New Yorker and The Atlantic.

Satter’s new book will examine Shore Bank, started by activists in 1973 as a community-development vehicle in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. The bank’s mission was to remedy redlining practices rampant throughout the banking industry by loaning badly needed capital to African American individuals, families and businesses, who had long been cut off from credit due to systemic racial discrimination.

Shore Bank’s experiment, which lasted nearly 40 years, was apparently so successful that President Bill Clinton invited the founders to Arkansas to develop community banking there when he was governor, then called for thousands more community-development banks across the country as president, based on the Shore Bank model, according to Satter.

With her fellowship, Satter will spend summer and fall 2015 doing archival research in Chicago and plans to start writing drafts of her book in early 2016.

"I’m deeply grateful to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation,” says Satter. “Thanks to this fellowship, I will have this precious opportunity to work full-time on a project that I care about very deeply.”

Sharma’s new short-story collection plays on the meaning of the term “cosmopolitan,” which for him refers “not to just knowledge of multiple cultures and languages but also to élan and cheerfulness.” He says it will feature ordinary characters of Indian descent (from both India and America) who grapple with how to move towards happiness, how to have meaningful relationships, and how to deal with shame and guilt.

The Guggenheim fellowship will enable Sharma to take off the 2015–2016 academic year to finish the collection.

“This is an enormous vote of confidence, and it only shows the strength of the Rutgers–Newark faculty,” says Sharma.

Guggenheim grants for the United States and Canada were given to 175 recipients this year in a wide range of fields. Satter was one of just four recipients in U.S. History this year, while Sharma was one of 10 in Fiction.