Professor of Creative Writing and Windham Campbell Prize-winning author Yiyun Li and Visiting Professor in Creative Writing and Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize-winning poet Patricia Smith have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They join 259 other newly elected members in five classes including Humanities and Arts, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Leadership, Policy and Communications.
Li is the author of eight books, including two story collections, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl; four novels, The Vagrants, Kinder Than Solitude, Where Reasons End, and Must I Go; and two nonfiction books, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life and Tolstoy Together, 85 Days of War and Peace with Yiyun Li. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages. She was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2010 and a recipient of Windham Campbell Prize in 2020. Awards for Li’s work include a 2021 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, a PEN/Hemingway Award, the Guardian First Book Award, an Asian American Literary Award for fiction, the Benjamin H. Dank Award from American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, the PEN/Jean Stein Award, and others.
Smith is the winner of the 2021 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, an award for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, the 2017 LA Times Book Prize, the 2018 NAACP Image Award and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and three collaborations with award-winning visual artists — Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, with Chicago photographer Michael Abramson, and the books Crowns and Death in the Desert with Sandro Miller. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, and Life According to Motown; the children’s book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in the anthologies Best American Poetry and Best American Essays. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and four individual championships of the National Poetry Slam, among others.
Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together, as expressed in its charter, “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” The academy’s studies have helped set the direction of research and analysis in science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy, education, and the arts and humanities.
Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence for 2021-21 and Visiting Lecturer in Dance Miguel Gutierrez was also named a new member this year, along with recent dance faculty member and frequent guest artist Kyle Abraham of A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham. Other Princeton faculty members elected to the Academy in the area of Arts and Humanities in recent years include Dean of the College and Professor of Theater Jill Dolan (2016), along with recent Presidential Visiting Scholar Hilton Als (2021) and past creative writing professor Jeffrey Eugenides (2013).
The membership of the academy includes more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. The new class will be inducted at a ceremony in 2023 at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.