I’m thrilled to see that Louise Erdrich won this year’s Dayton Literary Peace Prize’s Richard Holbrooke Award! The award is for an author’s whole body of work, rather than for a single book like the regular prize. Her novel Round House was on the fiction shortlist for last year’s prize and I was sad that she didn’t win.
First of all, it was a wonderful book that drew attention to the problem of violence against women on Native American reservations. I thought it was particularly deserving of the peace prize though because the book and Louise Erdrich’s activism, helped to change the law. The new version of the Violence Against Women Act includes changes to the law that close loopholes that made it difficult to prosecute offenders from off-reservation for crimes that occurred on reservation land. So definitely a well-deserved award. (Though I haven’t read any of Erdrich’s earlier books. I need to work on that.)
The 2014 shortlist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize should also be announced soon, and I’m looking forward to that too. Last year’s shortlist led me to read some amazing books. I mostly read from the non-fiction side. I had already read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Catherine Boo as my India book. But I don’t think I would otherwise have come across Far From the Tree, an eye-opening and thoughtful book about the lives of families with children who differ from their parents in substantial ways, covering topics ranging from deafness to child prodigies to transgendered children.
I also read The Devil in the Grove, about a case where Thurgood Marshall defended a group of black men accused of raping a white woman in Florida because it was on last year’s shortlist. All of the men were beaten, three were shot, and two killed by the police. I’ve found myself reflecting a lot this week about the police brutality depicted in the book and the ways in which we have and haven’t made progress since the 1940s.