Author N.K. Jemisin Named AAG Honorary Geographer

Photo of author N.K. Jemisin by Laura Hanifin, copyright 2015
Author N.K. Jemisin; Photo by Laura Hanifin, copyright 2015

AAG has named its 2022 Honorary Geographer: Author N.K. Jemisin. Jemisin is the world-building sci-fi author of The City We BecameThe Inheritance Trilogy, and The Broken Earth Trilogy. Her work is grounded in a keen geographical understanding of the world and of human societies.

Ms. Jemisin, a speculative fiction writer, is the recipient of numerous Hugo and Locus Awards, as well as a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship. She was named to the Time100 list in 2021. Of here work, AAG nominating member Julie Cidell of the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, says “Her fiction encompasses multiple genres, always with an eye towards how place and space matter to her characters and their worlds. She considers human-environment relationships as fundamental in her writings, including how power relations unfold and are resisted, demonstrating a keen geographical understanding throughout her varied works.”

Raised in Mobile, Alabama and New York City, Jemisin has been writing since childhood, although she considered it to be “just a hobby” until her early thirties. After attending the Viable Paradise writing workshop, she began seeking publication in earnest. Today, she is the first author in genre history to have won the Best Novel Hugo three consecutive times. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages.

Jemisin’s work is supremely conscious of place, climate, and culture. As described in her award citation:

Struggles against gentrification, white supremacy, misogyny, and the erasure of Indigenous people are all part of a greater battle against the homogenizing forces that seek to erase the unique strengths of the city and make it a bland space subordinate to capital. In her teaching on worldbuilding (creating believable worlds for speculative fiction authors), she. She begins with the physical environment in terms of climate, plate tectonics, natural hazards, and biogeography. She asks students to consider how this environment would shape social interactions, from economic development to architecture to religion. Finally, she asks what kind of social inequities and power imbalances would exist as a result of these physical and social systems, and how human capabilities might alter environments as well. In teaching authors to think this way, she also demonstrates the connections in our world between environment, society, and justice.

Every year the Association bestows its Honorary Geographer Award on an exceptional leader, to recognize excellence in the arts, research, teaching, and writing on geographic topics by non-geographers. Previous AAG Honorary Geographer awardees have included biologist Stephen J. Gould, architect Maya Lin, Nobel Laureate in economics Paul Krugman, sociologist Saskia Sassen, economist Jeffrey Sachs, and authors Calvin Trillin, Barbara Kingsolver, John McPhee and Barry Lopez, among others.