Today, we welcome 15 Class of 2023 National Fellows to New America. This Class of National Fellows includes writers, scholars, multimedia producers, and filmmakers dedicated to enhancing conversations around the most pressing issues of our time.

This special issue of the Fifth Draft features all members of our new cohort, which we hope you will enjoy. Meet the Class of 2023 and follow them on Twitter here.

Please also take a look at the many highlights from the Class of 2022 here.

Awista Ayub
Director, Fellows Program

Three questions with...
2023 Fellow Mona Chalabi

Your Fellows project will be a book that explores income inequality by weaving together data visualizations with interviews with ten people of varying income levels who live across the United States. What inspired this project?

Discomfort! That’s a starting point for a lot of my projects—I’m interested in writing about the things that we struggle to talk about. More specifically, I’m interested in the feeling of shame that money brings up and how that can often be debilitating. The goal of the book is to better understand not just the realities of income inequality but how we *feel* about our financial differences. I have managed to find most of the people now who will be in the book and despite the vast differences in the material reality of their lives, there are really interesting parallels in their desires to conceal the specifics of their wealth and income.

And I hope that I can maybe help to build a new vocabulary around those financial differences—one that promotes more transparency.

You have described your work in terms of “rehumanizing” data. What does this mean, and how can this process change our perception of data?

When most people think of data, I think the adjectives that come up are often things like—abstract, cold, detached. I don’t feel that way at all! Statistics are just the aggregation of human experiences and what humans experience should prompt feelings!

So I guess the rehumanization has two components. First, it’s about remembering the humans that make up the data—whether it’s the percentage of people who have Monkeypox or the number who are on a diet—there are all kinds of important factors that affect your chances of being in the “yes” or “no” category. So the inputs are humans.

Second, it’s about remembering that the outputs are human too. People, flawed people with experiences that shape their own biases are responsible for analyzing and representing data. (That’s not finger pointing, I really include myself in that!). That doesn’t mean that data is useless, I think it just makes it even more interesting.

How would you describe your illustration style? Does it differ between your data work and other mediums? What are the advantages to your style over more traditional data representation?

I think I might describe my illustration style as childlike? Maybe that’s because it hasn’t changed much since I was a child! I drew a lot when I was very young but stopped when I was around seven and only came back to it in my late 20s. I was surprised that the aesthetic hadn’t changed at all—I just picked up where I left off! At first, I was humbled and sad that the style isn’t artistically impressive but now I’m ok with it—I think it makes my style of work approachable. If people look at my illustrations and think “I could do that!” Then great! My work has been accessible! It has made someone feel empowered!

I think that’s the advantage of this style of data visualization. I haven’t compromised one iota on accuracy (my drawings are traced and edited in photoshop so that they perfectly align with computer generated graphics) but the wobbly lines remind people about the fallibility of data. The imperfections of the drawings hopefully remind people about the imprecision of numbers.

Two Cents

The Class of 2023 shares why they applied to be a New America Fellow.

1: So many writers and thinkers I have long admired have been a part of the fellowship. I applied because I relished the idea of being part of an incredibly rich and thoughtful community that I could learn from and with. It is a thrilling honor to be part of such a vibrant group. — Jennifer Medina, Class of 2023

2: I have always admired the fellows New America has selected in the past. I vowed that I would apply one day when I had a project that was an ideal fit for the fellowship. I knew I wanted to join a think tank of peers who were also asking tough questions about social change, democracy, and policy reform. I'm looking forward to this year!
— Tanisha C. Ford, Class of 2023

3: I decided to apply for a New America Fellowship, because I wanted to remind myself that being a thinker makes me a better storyteller. — Xinyan Yu, Class of 2023

4: Two past fellows who are both incredibly talented—Josie Duffy Rice and Melissa Segura—really encouraged me to apply. The process of writing any book, but especially a book that involves an in-depth examination of white supremacy, racist violence, and far-right extremism, can be lonely, and I look forward to being part of a community writers who are similarly working on big ideas. — Jessica Pishko, Class of 2023

5: Any good work I've gotten to be part of making is the result of unusual collaborations with brilliant journalists, policy researchers, creators. And New America always assembles such an interesting and impressive group of people. — Joe Posner, Class of 2023

6: I wanted to join a community of writers who love talking about how to structure a non-fiction narrative or how to convey complex ideas elegantly. — Zeke Faux, Class of 2023

7: My colleague Ellen Wu (Class of 2022) recommended the program highly and as a historian who has chiefly published on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France I was excited to think I might have something to contribute toward a New America (because the old one really isn't working). I'm a specialist in the French Revolution: I know dramatic change CAN happen, but it takes energy, enthusiasm, and a sense of possibility. — Rebecca L. Spang, Class of 2023

8: Writing is a lonely profession, especially during a pandemic. I've been searching for community and space that will both challenge and support me and found it in this fellowship. — Khameer Kidia, Class of 2023

9: The chance to learn from other fellows who are thinking and writing about the world's tough problems in creative ways. — Philip Bennett, Class of 2023

10: I'm a big admirer of a number of the books people have written while New America fellows—George Packer's Our Man, Andrea Elliott's Invisible Child, Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing, Clint Smith's How the Word Is Passed, to name a few—and was hoping to follow in their footsteps. — Jason Zengerle, Class of 2023

11: I wanted to join this intellectual community because I have common interests with a number of former fellows, including Lauren Michele Jackson, author of White Negroes, and Jonathan Katz, author of Gangsters of Capitalism. — Eula Biss, Class of 2023


Josh Chin published his book Surveillance State: Inside China's Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control with co-author Liza Lin. The book was applauded for its coverage of Chinese surveillance in a review from NPR.

Rachel Aviv published her book Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us. The book received a rave review from the New York Times.

Reading this month

Rethink the history (and present and future) of immigration by dipping into this recently translated collection of miniature sketches and archival gems collected by a well-known Polish journalist, herself a former immigrant to the U.S. 
— Ross Perlin,
Class of 2023

Learn more

Killers of the Flower Moon delves into the horrific and largely obscured history of the Osage Indian murders in 1920s Oklahoma, an essential and mind-boggling read, necessary to understand the deliberate and elaborate plots to eliminate indigenous peoples for their wealth and lands. 
— Emily Kassie,
Class of 2023

Learn more

Irby's essays strip away pretense, exposing the routine absurdities of our age. Her writing is probing and fun as hell. 
— Albert Samaha,
Class of 2023

Learn more

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We are storytellers who generate big, bold ideas that have an impact and spark new conversations about the most pressing issues of our day.

The three who put this together

Sarah Baline + Mallory McGovern + Awista Ayub

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