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ODU Prof John McManus Awarded Fulbright Scholar Grant

Picture of ODU Prof. John McManusJohn McManus

Old Dominion University professor John McManus left Norfolk this week for a monthlong research trip to Africa that will support a book project he plans to undertake in 2014 while teaching in Cape Town on a Fulbright Scholar grant.

McManus, an assistant professor of English who has three books published (and a fourth under contract) in his name, was selected for a 2013-14 Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant and will take a leave of absence from ODU to spend the academic year as a guest lecturer at the University of Cape Town.

The upcoming trip to Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania will be financed through a Creative Capital Literature grant. McManus' literature project application was one of six chosen out of nearly 700 total grant submissions. Creative Capital's investment in each project includes up to $50,000 in direct financial support, plus more than $40,000 in advisory services, according to the organization's website.

While in South Africa, McManus said he will volunteer with an organization that assists with gay refugees' asylum petitions. The refugees have fled neighboring countries where sexual orientation-related persecution and killings have occurred, he said, noting that South Africa has a progressive constitution that "protects gay people."

McManus' fictional look at the real-life situation will be presented through the eyes of an American journalist in Uganda who is too afraid of being imprisoned to leave his hotel and resorts to fabricating his story. Eventually, the scheme unravels when the journalist's piece falls under scrutiny due to additional attention received following a major nonfiction award.

McManus initially visited a journalist friend in Cape Town in 2011 and began to assess the feasibility of pursuing a Fulbright grant. It was then that he met Imran Coovadia, director of the University of Cape Town's creative writing program, who became McManus' grant sponsor.

"Geographically, (Cape Town) is stunning. It is a city where you can walk from downtown to the mountains and see two oceans. It's a beautiful place," McManus said. "It's a dynamic and extremely complicated city.

"None of the novel is written, so it remains to be seen if I can bring my ideas to a useful resolution," he continued. "I'm looking forward to writing."

McManus is the author of three widely praised books of fiction that have been reviewed in more than 100 print publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. In 2000 he became the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious Whiting Writers Award for "Stop Breakin Down."