Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi earns Pforzheimer Fellowship; 'It Is What It Is' to be featured in Best American Short Stories 2023

Author: Paul Cunningham

Azareen Best American Short Stories

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, an associate professor of English at Notre Dame, will be a 2023-24 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute. 

The Pforzheimer Fellowship offers scholars in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and arts — as well as writers, journalists, and other distinguished professionals — a rare chance to pursue ambitious projects for a full year in a vibrant interdisciplinary setting amid the resources of Harvard. The Radcliffe Institute's 2023–2024 fellows represent 3.3% of the applications received.

At Harvard, Van der Vliet Oloomi plans to work on her next novel, a "work of speculative fiction about America's continuously evolving definitions of freedom as well as the corresponding shifts in constructions of American Identity in relation to nature and notions of the wild." 

In addition, Van der Vliet Oloomi's short story "It Is What It Is" was selected by editors Min Jin Lee and Heidi Pitlor for Best American Short Stories 2023 (forthcoming from Mariner Books in October 2023). Making its first appearance in Electric Literature with an introduction by Alyssa Songsiridej, "It Is What It Is" tells a story of a cat orphaned by violence and a new owner determined to give her "the best Iranian life ever."

I stared at Khorshid’s high cheek bones and exaggeratedly long whiskers, her green eyes through which she looked out at the world in shock and concluded that her owner’s deaths had been a kind of disappearance. No bodies had been recovered. They had turned to ash mid-air and taken their place next to all of the unburied dead. Next to my father who had never been found. 

– Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, "It Is What It Is"

Van der Vliet Oloomi, a fellow with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studieshas authored three novels, including Savage Tongues (Mariner, 2021) and Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), which won the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the John Gardner Award, and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. She received a 2015 Whiting Writers Award and a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” award for her debut novel, Fra Keeler (Dorothy, a publishing project, 2012).

She has been supported by an Aspen Institute Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, a MacDowell Fellowship and a Fellowship from ART OMI, and her work has appeared in Granta, Guernica, The Paris Review, BOMB Magazine, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her work also has been translated into half a dozen languages.

At Notre Dame, Van der Vliet Oloomi founded Literatures of Annihilation, Exile and Resistance, a bi-annual symposium and lecture series that focuses on the study of literatures that have been shaped by histories of territorial and linguistic politics, colonialism, military domination and gross human rights violations. She serves on the Board of Advisors for Notre Dame's Initiative on Race and Resilience.

Originally published by Paul Cunningham at on May 22, 2023.