Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, recently named one of Harvard's Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellows, will be featured in Best American Short Stories 2023

Author: Paul Cunningham

Azareen Best American Short Stories

The power of Van der Vliet Oloomi’s writing is to do what the internet ultimately cannot: break the boundaries of the world so there isn’t any distance between one country or another, between the ancestors and the living, the real and the imagined. The result is startling, frightening, and yet somehow also comforting, stitching all of our disparate parts into a surprising—and wonderful—end. 

– Alyssa Songsiridej, Electric Literature

In May, Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute announced Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi as one of this year's Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellows. The Pforzheimr 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 only 3.3 percent of the many applications that Radcliffe received. During her time 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." 

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"

In addition to being awarded the Pforzheimer Fellowship, 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."





Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is the author of three novels, including Savage Tongues (Mariner, 2021), Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) winner of the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the John Gardner Award, and 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). Her work has been supported by an Aspen Institute Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, a MacDowell Fellowship and a Fellowship from ART OMI and has appeared in Granta, Guernica, The Paris Review, BOMB Magazine, and the Los Angeles Review of Books among other places. Her work has been translated into half a dozen languages. She is the founder of 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.