February 6, 2018KR BlogNewsletter

Meet the Next KR Fellows

The Kenyon Review welcomes two exceptional writers as the next KR Fellows: Molly McCully Brown, in poetry, and Misha Rai, in prose. Brown and Rai will bring their literary gifts and teaching talent to Kenyon College in August, when they begin two-year residencies as part of the Review family.

The writers were chosen in December from more than 200 applicants, “the strongest pool of candidates we’ve ever had for the KR Fellowships,” said KR Editor David H. Lynn. “They are both extraordinary writers, and inspiring teachers as well.” In addition to pursuing their own creative projects and participating in a variety of KR programs, Brown and Rai will each teach one course per semester, beginning with a multi-genre writing workshop.

The KR fellowship program is designed for creative writers who have already completed their MFA or PhD and who have embarked on promising careers. The two-year position allows them to develop as writers, teachers, and editors while contributing to the vibrant literary life at Kenyon. Brown and Rai will replace Jaquira Díaz and Margaree Little, who began their fellowships in 2016.

Molly McCully Brown is the author of the poetry collection The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded (Persea Books, 2017), which won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and which New York Times book reviewer Dwight Garner recently selected as one of his Top Ten Picks for 2017. Noting that the title refers to an actual government-run hospital that once sterilized many of its patients without their consent, Garner called the book “part history lesson, part séance, and part ode to dread.”

Brown is currently the 2017-2018 Jeff Baskin Writers Fellow at The Oxford American magazine, where she is at work on a collection of essays about disability, poetry, religion, and the American South. Raised in rural Virginia, she is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Stanford University, and the University of Mississippi, where she received her MFA in poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Pleiades, Kenyon Review, Image, Colorado Review, TriQuarterly Online, The Rumpus, Meridian, and elsewhere. Brown was recently named a 2018 USA Fellow by United States Artists, winning one of forty-five unrestricted grants in recognition of creative accomplishment.

She also has a connection to KR, having attended the Young Writers Program in 2008. That year she also won the Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers.

Misha Rai, who currently serves as associate reviews editor at Pleiades, won the 2016 Dana Award and a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies for her novel-in-progress, Blood We Did Not Spill. Set in India, where Rai grew up, the novel divides its action between 1977, when a young female police officer temporarily takes charge of a prison for five days, and 1977, during the final months of the national state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Rai’s writing often focuses on transnational literature, historical and political fiction, literary history, detection, and exile. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Gigantic Book of Tiny Crimes, Mississippi Review, Indiana Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sonora Review, Crab Orchard Review, and other journals.

“Misha Rai and Molly McCully Brown promise to transform our editorial vision with their energy and their commitment to expanding the range of voices publishing in KR,” said Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, associate editor of the Review. “Their work combines an engagement with social justice, a close attention to the ways we tell difficult stories, and the sheer joy of formal exploration.”

As part of the selection process for the fellowship, Brown and Rai interviewed on the Kenyon campus in Gambier, Ohio, where each gave a reading, taught a creative writing class, and met with KR staff members and with student KR associates, as well as with members of the search committee. That committee included KR editors and staff along with professors in the Kenyon English Department.