Emerging Critics

Meet the 2021-2022 Emerging Critics

By Heather Scott Partington

Top row, L-R: Mandana Chaffa, Willow Naomi Curry, Yohanca Delgado, Matt Ellis, Antonio López
Bottom row, L-R: A.V. Marraccini, Rishi Reddi, Sophia Stewart, Dujie Tahat, April Yee

Mandana Chaffa is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Nowruz Journal, a periodical of Persian arts and letters, and Editor and Senior Strategist at Chicago Review of Books. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in several anthologies, as well as in Ploughshares online, Chicago Review of Books, TriQuarterly, The Los Angeles Review, The Rumpus, Split Lip Magazine, Jacket2, and elsewhere. Born in Tehran, Iran, she lives in New York, and is a graduate of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

A native and resident of Houston, Texas, Willow Naomi Curry is an interdisciplinary artist working in literary nonfiction, hybrid-genre, and dramatic writing; photography (creation and curation); and community-engaged, collaborative, process-based works. Her writing has been published in zines, anthologies, and literary journals, most notably Fourth Genre, and she is currently at work on a National Endowment for the Arts production grant-winning play for Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company in Houston. Her community-engaged artworks have been commissioned and exhibited by We, Women: A Visual Rebellion; DiverseWorks; and Mystic Lyon. Willow is currently the Houston Museum of African American Culture’s 2021 Literary Fellow, a company artist at Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company, and part of Oak Spring Garden Foundation’s Fall 2021 Interdisciplinary Residency cohort.

Yohanca Delgado is a 2021-2023 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her interviews, reviews, and criticism have appeared in Ploughshares online, the Washington Review of Books, Fiction Writers Review, Electric Literature, and Catapult. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from American University. She is an assistant fiction editor at Barrelhouse and a member of the inaugural Periplus Collective mentorship program.

Matt Ellis is a former Army intelligence officer, combat veteran, and diplomat who has served in almost every region of the world. His projects most often focus on the evolution and impact of historical, contemporary, and emerging international geopolitical issues on society. Most recently, he has worked as a freelance contributor for Publishers Weekly and interviews editor for The Coachella Review. His writing has also been featured in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Thought Catalog, and Sein Werden. He holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of California at Riverside, Palm Desert. Find him online at

Antonio López has received scholarships to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, Tin House, the Vermont Studio Center, and Bread Loaf. He is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop and a CantoMundo Fellow. He holds degrees from Duke University, Rutgers-Newark, and the University of Oxford. He is pursuing a PhD in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University. His debut poetry collection, Gentefication, was selected by Gregory Pardlo as the winner of the 2019 Levis Prize in Poetry. Antonio his currently fighting gentrification in his hometown as the newest and youngest councilmember for the City of East Palo Alto.

A.V. Marraccini is a critic, essayist, and art historian based in London. She is interested in the many intersections between visual culture, literary experimentation, and possible worlds. Her first book, We The Parasites, is forthcoming in the US from Sublunary Editions in Fall 2022. It is about criticism as both parasitism and queer desire, antiquarianism and classicisms, difficult loves, and the paintings of Cy Twombly.

Rishi Reddi is the author of the novel Passage West, a Los AngelesTimes “Best CA Book of 2020” and the collection Karma and Other Stories, which received the 2008 L. L. Winship /PEN New England Award for fiction. Her work appears in Best American Short Stories, has been broadcast on National Public Radio, and was chosen for honorable mention in the Pushcart Prize. A lawyer and environmental justice advocate, she was born in Hyderabad, India, and grew up in Great Britain and the United States. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

Sophia Stewart is an editor and writer from Los Angeles. In 2020 she graduated from UC Berkeley, where she studied Media Studies and Spanish. She currently serves as an Assistant Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and her work has appeared in The Believer, Hyperallergic, Catapult, Literary Hub, Bitch, Asymptote, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn and tweets at @smswrites.

Dujie Tahat is a Filipino-Jordanian immigrant living in Washington state. They are the author of Here I Am O My God, selected for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship, and Salat, winner of the Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Award and longlisted for the 2020 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. Along with Luther Hughes and Gabrielle Bates, they cohost The Poet Salon podcast.

April Yee is a writer and translator published in Salon, Electric Literature, Newsweek, and Ploughshares online. A Harvard and Tin House alumna, she reported in more than a dozen countries at sites ranging from Chernobyl to Iraqi oil fields before moving to the UK, where she reads for Liminal Transit Review and mentors for University of the Arts London’s Refugee Journalism Project. In 2021, she was shortlisted for the Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize, the University of East Anglia’s David T.K. Wong Fellowship, the Women’s Prize Trust’s Discoveries program, and the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize. She tweets at @aprilyee.