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Geraldine Brooks to receive the Dayton Literary Peace Prize's lifetime achievement award

August 19, 2010 |  3:27 pm

GeraldinebrooksOn Thursday, the organizers of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize announced that this year's lifetime achievement award will be presented to Geraldine Brooks. The Australian journalist-turned-novelist has written about war as both fact and fiction. Her second novel, "March," won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, first awarded in 2006, was inspired by achievements of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords to bring the war in Bosnia to an end. Previous lifetime achievement winners include Elie Wiesel, Taylor Branch and Studs Terkel.

Born and raised in Australia, Geraldine Brooks studied journalism in the U.S., eventually becoming the Wall Street Journal's United Nations correspondent. She covered the conflicts in Bosnia and Somalia. On her website, she writes with an unexpected lightness:

In Nigeria to report on Shell Oil's collusion with the Abacha military dictatorship, she was arrested and thrown in a lock up in Port Harcourt, accused of being a spy.  While there, she began to consider a midlife career change. In 1995 she wrote a memoir, Foreign Correspondence, which chronicles a childhood enriched by penpals from around the world, and her adult quest to find them.

Brooks' 2008 novel, "People of the Book," was based on a 14th century Hebrew codex, the Sarajevo Haggadah, created in Spain during a time of peaceful exchange between Jews, Christians and Muslims and protected through the conflicts since. During World War II, the Muslim chief librarian of the Bosnian National Museum hid it under his coat when Nazis came looking for it, later secreting it away in a remote mosque, which was hidden again during the Bosnian conflict. "People of the Book" made the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize will also award prizes to fiction and nonfiction books; those in competition are being read by judges now. The Dayton Literary Peace Prizes -- and lifetime achievement award -- will be presented Nov. 7 in Dayton, Ohio.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Geraldine Brooks. Credit: Randi Baird


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