Journalist Writes Her Way to a Free Home in DetroitLiana Aghajanian to be celebrated Friday


For Press Inquiries: Sarah F. Cox, Director 646-704-4558

DETROIT, MI—Write A House is thrilled to name journalist Liana Aghajanian as the winner of its second permanent residency in Detroit. Aghajanian will receive a newly renovated home that is hers to keep, forever. She and her partner, the graphic designer and artist Keegam Shamlian, expect to move from Los Angeles to Detroit in January.

"Detroit is a place that I've gravitated towards for years, and I feel blessed to have been given the life-changing opportunity to grow in such a dynamic, complex, and diverse city," said Aghajanian. "I'm finally being given the literal and metaphorical space to think and breathe."

Acclaimed writer and filmmaker dream hampton was one of the judges that selected Aghajanian's writing from the pool of 232 applicants from 37 states, as well as the District of Columbia, and five different countries. A shortlist of 10 finalists was announced in August 2015.

Liana Aghajanian
Liana Aghajanian

Aghajanian is an independent Armenian-American journalist whose work explores the issues, people, and places that remain hidden and on the fringes of society. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Foreign Policy, the BBC, Al Jazeera America, and The Atlantic, among other publications. Reporting from Kenya, the UK, Germany, the South Caucasus, and across the West Coast of the United States, she covers the intersection of culture, immigration, social justice, displacement, and identity. She edits Ianyan Magazine, an independent online journal on Armenia and its diaspora. Her work has received support from the Metlife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship, the California Health Journalism Fellowship, and the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University. She is online at and @LianaAgh.

"After being a full-time freelance journalist for quite a while, a life that is marked by loneliness, I am not only looking forward to being part of a rich literary community, but I'm also eager to let my work take a more creative, introspective direction," Aghajanian added. "At the same time, I'm excited to continue my interest in narrative journalism through a Detroit angle."

Write A House director Sarah F. Cox said that while Aghajanian is brand-new to Detroit, "she had very thoughtful insights on the area, thanks to her meticulous research, which we talked about in her interview. Given her background in traveling to new places to interview many different kinds of people, and her ability to do a deep dive into stories of real cultural resonance, we felt she would adapt well to this environment. She will be a great asset to the journalism community here."

Detroit will welcome Aghajanian to the city at a celebratory event on Friday, October 2 at the renovated house on Meade Street that she will be awarded. The event will spotlight novelist Matt Bell and his new novel, Scrapper, which is set in Detroit. Bell also serves as a fiction judge for the program.

Write A House will open a new round of applications in 2016 for its next set of houses, located in the same Banglatown/No Ham neighborhood where Aghajanian will reside. It is also home to poet Casey Rocheteau, the inaugural Write A House recipient.

By renovating vacant homes in a diverse Detroit neighborhood,Write A House is building the literary arts in Detroit, supporting skilled writers, providing vocational education for Detroiters, and stabilizing neighborhoods. It partners with Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Zac Cruse Construction Company, Patrick Thompson Design, and the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

Hundreds of talented writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry applied in the second round of applications in 2015. Writing quality was the most important part of the application. In the first phase of the application process, a panel of judges—hampton, Bell, Major Jackson, Michael Stone-Richards, Billy Collins, Tamara Warren, Sean MacDonald, Toby Barlow, and Nancy Kaffer—vetted candidates through a blind process. Applicants were then evaluated on the basis of the rest of their application. Finalists also participated in a Skype interview with the Write A House co-founders.

Write A House is backed by funding from the Hudson-Webber Foundation and the Knight Foundation's Knight Arts Challenge, which funds the best ideas for engaging and enriching Detroit through the arts. It is also supported by individual generosity. Interested writers and non-writers alike can support the future of Write A House and Detroit’s literary community by making a donation through Fundly.