Arts foundation awards $100K grant to Fresno State English professor

Randa Jarrar teaches creative writing and literature at Fresno State.
The Creative Capital Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that has supported “innovative and adventurous” individual artists since 1999, has awarded Fresno State faculty Randa Jarrar this month with a $100,000 grant to support her latest novel in progress and career development.

Jarrar, an associate professor in the English Department, is among 41 artists whose 35 projects were selected for 2020 Creative Capital Awards. The winning projects were chosen from a pool of more than 4,000 applications and selected by a nine-member, multidisciplinary panel of artists, expert curators, and arts professionals.

Suzy Delvalle, president and executive director of Creative Capital, said in a statement that the awarded artists come from many different backgrounds and fields, sharing “a dedication to pushing boundaries, both ours and their own.”

Jarrar, who teaches courses in creative writing and literature, will use the award to work on her fourth book, “Lunch at Guantanamo,” which she describes as “a semi-satirical, fantastical novel set in 2045 Guantanamo Bay. The book envisions a utopic queer future, one that offers its inhabitants peace, liberation, and justice.”

The book is inspired by and updating the Franz Kafka short story “In the Penal Colony.”

Jarrar said she is thrilled to receive the support for drafting her new novel. “I’m looking forward to the ways I can model a successful writing career for students,” she said.

Her third book, the memoir “Love Is an Ex-Country,” will be published this fall by Catapult Books. Her previous books, the story collection “Him, Me, Muhammad Ali” and the novel “A Map of Home,” have won numerous awards.

Joseph Cassara, an assistant professor of English who teaches fiction writing with Jarrar in Fresno State’s Master of Fine Arts Program, said the Creative Capital Award is one of the largest monetary prizes in the literary world.

According to Cassara, only 12 literary writing projects have received funding from Creative Capital, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. Other authors who have received the award have included Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty (2009), Guggenheim recipient Ben Marcus (2009), Whiting Award winner John McManus (2013), and Guggenheim recipient Percival Everett (2016).

“This is all to say that the Creative Capital Award is a very big deal,” Cassara said. “We are so lucky have to Randa in our English Department at Fresno State.”

Since its founding in 1999, Creative Capital has supported 741 artists with nearly $50 million in funding and professional development opportunities, according to its website. Drawing from the principles of venture capital to develop innovative work in the cultural sphere, Creative Capital “seeks out bold, groundbreaking projects and provides the artists behind them with the tools they need to realize their visions and build sustainable careers.”

~ By Jefferson Beavers, Communication Specialist, Department of English

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