Round–Up: MacArthur Fellows, California Wildfires, and Joni Mitchell

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From writers with “genius grants” to a new biography of Joni Mitchell, we’ve collected the latest literary news:


Novelists Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jesmyn Ward have been named 2017 recipients of MacArthur fellowships, which include grants of $625,000 each. The two novelists are among this year’s selection of 24 fellows–a list that includes playwrights, mathematicians, historians, computer scientists, and anthropologists. Both were chosen for having oeuvres that explore minority groups in the US—Ward for writing about community and family among poor African Americans of the rural South and Nguyen for “challenging popular depictions of the Vietnam War.”


Bookstores are opening up to provide resources to those affected by the California wildfires that have killed over 40 people, destroyed more than 1,500 structures, forced thousands from their homes, and left many in the area without power. Copperfield’s Books has opened up its locations in Petaluma, Sebastopol, Novato, Montgomery Village, Healdsburg, and San Rafael to those fleeing the fires, providing free Wi-Fi, charging stations for cell phones and laptops, and restrooms; Readers’ Books in downtown Sonoma and Treehorn Books in downtown Santa Rosa were both back in business on Tuesday to offer a safe place for people among the destruction.


Reckless Daughter: a Portrait of Joni Mitchell, a new biography of the folk legend, is set to release today with pre-orders already off the charts. The author, David Yaffe, a professor of humanities at Syracuse University and noted music critic, is known for his books Fascinating Rhythm: Reading Jazz in American Writing and Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown. He creates his portrait of Joni Mitchell using biographical information and extensive quotations from interviews given by the artist. He tracks her early years, her rise to fame, her expansion into jazz, and the eventual decline of her health, showing that courage and vulnerability have been the motivating forces in her life and her art.