Dayton Literary Peace Prize will go to Chang-Rae Lee
The 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction will go to Chang-Rae Lee for his novel "The Surrendered." The nonfiction prize will be awarded to Wilbert Rideau for "In the Place of Justice," the organization announced Monday.
The prize was launched in 2006 to focus attention on the power of the written word, in fiction and nonfiction, and to promote peace and understanding. The awards commemorate the 1995 Dayton Peace accords, which brough the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina to an end.
Previous winners have included Junot Díaz for his novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," Edwidge Danticat's "Brother, I'm Dying," Dave Eggers' "Zeitoun" and Marlon James' "The Book of Night Women."
Lee's book, which also was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, recounts the intertwined histories of a Korean War orphan and an American GI. "History shows that all nations eventually decline, governments shall fall, great structures will crumble to dust; yet literature endures -- because in order to thrive we need our own voices to tilt against intolerance, ignorance, callousness; to make ourselves vulnerable to the difficult and beautiful truths of our humanity; to remind us we are one," Lee said in a release. "This is what the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation so rightly supports and celebrates; that my work has been thusly recognized is a deeply humbling -- and inspiring -- honor."
Rideau's memoir tells the story of being condemned to death and imprisoned in Louisiana's notorious Angola penitentiary, where he became editor of the prison newspaper. "No one is more mindful than I am of the long journey I traveled to become an advocate for peace, and to have my writing recognized as serving that end is the ultimate honor,” Rideau said in the release. He was freed in 2005. “I am a witness for the power of the written word. I know first-hand that reading is transformative. I know that books can inspire people to be better than they are, to aim higher than they thought they could ever go, to create opportunity where none was apparent, to find hope in the bleakest of circumstances, and to discover their own humanity. If my memoir can help one person find a more peaceable path through life, I will consider it a success."
The organization also announced a runner-up in each category for 2011: "Beneath the Lion’s Gaze" by Maaza Mengiste in fiction and "The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award winner.
The organization's lifetime achievement award, named the Holbrooke Award to honor diplomat Richard Holbrooke, will be presented to Barbara Kingsolver. "I'm very moved by both the legacy and the aspirations of this prize," Kingsolver said when the honor was announced in August. "It will be an honor to stand in the heart of the country and celebrate peace."
The winners will each recieve an honorarium of $10,000 when the awards are presented at a ceremony in Dayton on Nov. 13.
-- Carolyn Kellogg