2019 Great Immigrants Recipient

Aleksandar Hemon
Writer and Professor of Creative Writing, Princeton University | MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow
Born in:
Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 1992 Aleksandar Hemon was a young journalist visiting Chicago as part of an exchange program for what was supposed to be a short stay in the United States. When the Bosnian War broke out that spring, he found himself a refugee, unable to return to his native Sarajevo. Hemon has since achieved widespread acclaim for his writings in his adopted language of English, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a “Genius Grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, which celebrated Hemon for dramatizing “with wit and dexterity the cultural displacement that he and his characters have endured. His voice invigorates American literature and succeeds in conveying moving stories from the otherwise incommunicable experience of war.” Hemon is the author of the novel The Lazarus Project, a collection of short stories, Nowhere Man, and the memoir The Book of My Lives. An essayist and regular contributor to the New Yorker, Hemon teaches creative writing at Princeton University. He became a U.S. citizen in 2000 and still lives in Chicago. As he told the Daily Beast in 2009, “Immigration in this country is unstoppable. Despite all the resistance, people coming from elsewhere have been changing this country for a long time. In the neighborhood I live in, about 120 languages are spoken, including English. The transformation is irreversible.”