The Dayton Literary Peace Prize might not be as well-known as many literary prizes, but it is one of which I am particularly fond. This year’s finalists were just announced and it looks like a great combination of a few books I have read, some that I have been wanting to read and others that I now want to read.
The prize was established in Dayton, Ohio in honor of the Dayton Peace Accords which in 1995 brought the war in Bosnia to an end.
The award is for works which focus on “increasing understanding between and among people as individuals or within and between families, communities, nations, ethnic groups, cultures and religions.” Sounds pretty perfect for someone who is reading globally!
Here’s the list of finalists copied from the press release:
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Random House): A 13-year-old boy living on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota sets out with three friends on a quest for answers about an attack on his mother that has left her too traumatized to leave her bed.
- Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (HarperCollins): A hilarious and heartbreaking day in the life of an Iraq War hero whose squad appears in a Dallas Cowboys halftime show as part of an effort to rekindle support for the war.
- The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Random House): In this Pulitzer Prize-winning tour de force, Adam Johnson provides a riveting portrait of a world rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, and stolen moments of beauty and love.
- The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore (Random House): In 1938 Belfast, a young lace maker is whisked away from her dreary life to a glamorous Berlin household, only to find her fairy tale shattered by the realities of encroaching war.
- The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead (Algonquin): A mesmerizing coming-of-age novel that moves from the steamy streets of New Orleans to one of the most physically challenging battles in the Korean War.
- The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown and Company): Praised by Tom Wolfe as “the All Quiet on the Western Front of America’s Arab wars,” this bestselling debut novel by an Iraq War veteran recounts a bloody battle through the eyes of two young soldiers.
The 2013 nonfiction finalists are
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (Random House): Global change and inequality are given a human face via the residents of a makeshift settlement in the shadow of Mumbai’s luxury hotels.
- Pax Ethnica by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac (Public Affairs Books): From Kerala, India to Queens, New York, the authors explore regions noted for low violence, rising life expectancy, and pragmatic compromises on cultural rights, revealing how diverse communities manage to live in peace.
- Burying the Typewriter by Carmen Bugan (Graywolf Press): In this debut memoir, a Romanian girl’s bucolic life is upended when her father is arrested for political dissidence.
- Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Viking): Bred to be a slave and a snitch, Shin Dong-hyuk is the only known person born in a North Korean prison camp to escape and survive. This bestselling account inspired a UN investigation of such camps earlier this year.
- Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (HarperCollins): A richly detailed chronicle of four black Florida men who, falsely accused of rape in 1949, were defended by civil rights crusader Thurgood Marshall — later the first African-American Supreme Court justice.
- Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (Scribner): In telling the stories of exceptional children affected by a spectrum of cognitive, physical or psychological differences, Solomon uncovers the intense prejudice they face and meets the parents who embrace their differences and try to alter the world’s understanding of their conditions.
The ones I’ve read: Behind the Beautiful Forevers (my thoughts here) and The Round House. Both were wonderful and fully deserving of a peace award. On the other hand, they both have already won major awards, making it a bit harder for me to root for them.
The ones I already wanted to read: The Yellow Birds, The Orphan Master’s Son and Far From the Tree. I’ve read enthusiastic reviews of all of these, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. I don’t plan to count any of them for my Book-from-Every-Country project, which might be part of the reason.
The ones I now want to read: Pretty much all the rest. Pax Ethnica sounds particularly fascinating. And Burying the Typewriter would be a good candidate for my book for Romania.
The winners will be announced on September 24th. Unfortunately, given that I have a busy month ahead of me, I don’t think I’ll be able to read many of them before the announcement. But hopefully I’ll be able to read a few of them at least by the time next year’s finalists are announced!