Dayton Literary Peace Prize

2007 Lifetime Achievement Award

Elie Wiesel

“Are we so naïve as to think that we can bring peace to the world through words? Yes we are. What else do we have?”

— Elie Wiesel                        

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Bio

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize Committee honored Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel with the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award. Professor Wiesel, who has written more than forty internationally acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, was present to receive the award in conjunction with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize ceremonies on Sunday, October 14, 2007 at The Benjamin and Marion Schuster Center for the Performing Arts in Dayton, Ohio.

Professor Wiesel’s 1958 memoir La Nuit (Night) chronicles his experiences in European concentration camps during World War II. Night has been read by millions and is included in school and college curricula globally. Wiesel was chosen because of his role as a literary and political spokesperson on behalf of Jews and other groups who have suffered persecution and death due to their religion, race, or national origin. He has been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America Congressional Gold Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and, in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1976, he has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, where he also holds the title of University Professor.

“Professor Wiesel’s voice has been heard in the literary community for nearly fifty years; it is an increasingly important one for us to hear today,” said Sharon Rab at the announcement of the committee’s decision. “His tremendous contribution to the world of letters is recognized globally. We are delighted and honored that he will be able to join us to receive this special Lifetime Achievement Award.”

 

 

Book Excerpt 

 

For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.

Citation

Words of gratitude. First to our common Creator. This is what the Jewish tradition commands us to do. At special occasions, one is duty-bound to recite the following prayer: “Barukh shehekhyanu vekiymanu vehigianu lazman haze” – “Blessed be Thou for having sustained us until this day.”

Then — thank you, Chairman Aarvik, for the depth of your eloquence. And for the generosity of your gesture. Thank you for building bridges between people and generations. Thank you, above all, for helping humankind make peace its most urgent and noble aspiration.

I am moved, deeply moved by your words, Chairman Aarvik. And it is with a profound sense of humility that I accept the honor – the highest there is – that you have chosen to bestow upon me. I know your choice transcends my person.

Do I have the right to represent the multitudes who have perished? Do I have the right to accept this great honor on their behalf? I do not. No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions. And yet, I sense their presence. I always do – and at this moment more than ever. The presence of my parents, that of my little sister. The presence of my teachers, my friends, my companions…

This honor belongs to all the survivors and their children and, through us to the Jewish people with whose destiny I have always identified.

I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of Night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.

I remember he asked his father: “Can this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

And now the boy is turning to me. “Tell me,” he asks, “what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

Of course, since I am a Jew profoundly rooted in my people’s memory and tradition, my first response is to Jewish fears, Jewish needs, Jewish crises. For I belong to a traumatized generation, one that experienced the abandonment and solitude of our people. It would be unnatural for me not to make Jewish priorities my own: Israel, Soviet Jewry, Jews in Arab land… But others are important to me. Apartheid is, in my view, as abhorrent as anti-Semitism. To me, Andrei Sakharov’s isolation is as much a disgrace as Joseph Begun’s imprisonment and Ida Nudel’s exile. As is the denial of solidarity and its leader Lech Walesa’s right to dissent. And Nelson Mandela’s interminable imprisonment.

There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism and political persecution – in Chile, for instance, or in Ethiopia – writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right.

Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere. That applies also to Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore when they lead to violence. Violence is not the answer. Terrorism is the most dangerous of answers. They are frustrated, that is understandable, something must be done. The refugees and their misery. The children and their fear. The uprooted and their hopelessness. Something must be done about their situation. Both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have lost too many sons and daughters and have shed too much blood. This must stop, and all attempts to stop it must be encouraged. Israel will cooperate, I am sure of that. I trust Israel for I have faith in the Jewish people. Let Israel be given a chance, let hatred and danger be removed from their horizons, and there will be peace in and around the Holy Land. Please understand my deep and total commitment to Israel: if you could remember what I remember, you would understand. Israel is the only nation in the world whose existence is threatened. Should Israel lose but one war, it would mean her end and ours as well. But I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all. Isn’t that the meaning of Alfred Nobel’s legacy? Wasn’t his fear of war a shield against war?

There is so much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr. – one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death.

As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.

This is what I say to the young Jewish boy wondering what I have done with his years. It is in his name that I speak to you and that I express to you my deepest gratitude as one who has emerged from the Kingdom of Night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them.

Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

Thank you, Chairman Aarvik. Thank you, members of the Nobel Committee. Thank you, people of Norway, for declaring on this singular occasion that our survival has meaning for mankind.

— Elie Wiesel
Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech,
Delivered in Oslo on December 10, 1986

Citation

Words of gratitude. First to our common Creator. This is what the Jewish tradition commands us to do. At special occasions, one is duty-bound to recite the following prayer: “Barukh shehekhyanu vekiymanu vehigianu lazman haze” – “Blessed be Thou for having sustained us until this day.”

Then — thank you, Chairman Aarvik, for the depth of your eloquence. And for the generosity of your gesture. Thank you for building bridges between people and generations. Thank you, above all, for helping humankind make peace its most urgent and noble aspiration.

I am moved, deeply moved by your words, Chairman Aarvik. And it is with a profound sense of humility that I accept the honor – the highest there is – that you have chosen to bestow upon me. I know your choice transcends my person.

Do I have the right to represent the multitudes who have perished? Do I have the right to accept this great honor on their behalf? I do not. No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions. And yet, I sense their presence. I always do – and at this moment more than ever. The presence of my parents, that of my little sister. The presence of my teachers, my friends, my companions… This honor belongs to all the survivors and their children and, through us to the Jewish people with whose destiny I have always identified.

I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of Night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.

I remember he asked his father: “Can this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

And now the boy is turning to me. “Tell me,” he asks, “what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

Of course, since I am a Jew profoundly rooted in my people’s memory and tradition, my first response is to Jewish fears, Jewish needs, Jewish crises. For I belong to a traumatized generation, one that experienced the abandonment and solitude of our people. It would be unnatural for me not to make Jewish priorities my own: Israel, Soviet Jewry, Jews in Arab land… But others are important to me. Apartheid is, in my view, as abhorrent as anti-Semitism. To me, Andrei Sakharov’s isolation is as much a disgrace as Joseph Begun’s imprisonment and Ida Nudel’s exile. As is the denial of solidarity and its leader Lech Walesa’s right to dissent. And Nelson Mandela’s interminable imprisonment.

There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism and political persecution – in Chile, for instance, or in Ethiopia – writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right.

Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere. That applies also to Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore when they lead to violence. Violence is not the answer. Terrorism is the most dangerous of answers. They are frustrated, that is understandable, something must be done. The refugees and their misery. The children and their fear. The uprooted and their hopelessness. Something must be done about their situation. Both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have lost too many sons and daughters and have shed too much blood. This must stop, and all attempts to stop it must be encouraged. Israel will cooperate, I am sure of that. I trust Israel for I have faith in the Jewish people. Let Israel be given a chance, let hatred and danger be removed from their horizons, and there will be peace in and around the Holy Land. Please understand my deep and total commitment to Israel: if you could remember what I remember, you would understand. Israel is the only nation in the world whose existence is threatened. Should Israel lose but one war, it would mean her end and ours as well. But I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all. Isn’t that the meaning of Alfred Nobel’s legacy? Wasn’t his fear of war a shield against war?

There is so much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr. – one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death.

As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.

This is what I say to the young Jewish boy wondering what I have done with his years. It is in his name that I speak to you and that I express to you my deepest gratitude as one who has emerged from the Kingdom of Night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them.

Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

Thank you, Chairman Aarvik. Thank you, members of the Nobel Committee. Thank you, people of Norway, for declaring on this singular occasion that our survival has meaning for mankind.

— Elie Wiesel
Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech,
Delivered in Oslo on December 10, 1986

 

Book Excerpt 

 

For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.

2007 Fiction Winner

Brad Kessler - Birds In Fall

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“To win a literary award is exciting enough.  But to be given one wedded to the sentiment and cause of peace is the greatest honor I think any writer or poet could wish for—especially right now in this country in this time of war.  Nothing would seem less effectual in bringing about peace than sitting alone in a room talking to imaginary characters, which is what a novelist does.  For my novel, then, to be recognized as a call for peace is incredibly humbling.”

— Brad Kessler                        

Bio

Brad Kessler is the author of Birds in Fall (Scribner 2006) and Lick Creek (Scribner 2001), as well as several award-winning children’s books. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, The Kenyon Review and numerous other publications. He has received prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, and was recently nominated by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for a Rome Prize.

His first non-fiction work, The Goat Diaries, will be published by Scribner in 2009. He lives in Vermont with the photographer Dona Ann McAdams.

Citation

Brad Kessler’s luminous novel opens with a terrifying scene: the last moments of passengers aboard a plane that is about to crash. It is the more devastating for the understated quality of the writing, and the small, brave acts — a woman writes her name on her arm with a lipstick — before the plane crashes into the sea off Nova Scotia.

The innkeeper who witnesses the crash becomes host to the community of grieving relatives that arrive to wait for news from the recovery effort. Grief unites us — grief unites them — and in the forms of their mourning, their rituals, and the ways they encourage each other to go on, we see different cultures’ provisions for the deepest losses. There are Taiwanese parents, a Bulgarian husband, Dutch children, an Italian couple, an Iranian exile who calls Persians “the connoisseurs of grief,” and the American widow — a bird biologist — whose studies of migration and its terminology become increasingly emblematic. Migration means to abandon one region for another; in the inn, a Scottish woman recites Tibetan prayers to aid in guiding the souls of the dead through their transmigration.

In impeccable prose that is never sensational or sentimental, with occasional flares of irony, Kessler shows us the necessary acts of consolation that accrue in this group. The American woman who lost her husband comes to think of the Iranian man who lost his niece as “a ladder she could climb.” About Ana, the bird expert, Kessler writes, “It was often impossible actually to see the moment of flight…only through indirection, through not looking…could she experience the birds’ flight.” In this novel, Brad Kessler does not spotlight the subject of peace and understanding. Rather, as the poet Mark Doty has said, it is the lensthrough which we see the world. Not explicit–implicit. This humane stance, so beautifully rendered, is why we chose Birds in Fall as the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

— Amy Hempel
2007 finalist judge


Book Excerpt


What happens to the birds in the eyes of the storm?

Ana placed her teacup in its saucer.  She’d been worried about this question.

Well, she began tentatively.  It’s not a pretty picture.  The problem is, the birds in the eye really are trapped there.  They can’t fly through the wall of the eye, and they can’t land on the water, so they have to keep flying for hours or days, and eventually, they exhaust themselves and drop into the ocean.  The ones who get caught in the wall of the eye itself are carried upward on spiraling winds.  No one really knows how high these winds go, but it’s somcthing incredible, like fifty thousand feet.  It’s pretty cold, you can imagine, at that altitude.  The birds swept up there usually freeze.

And then what? Diana Olmstead asked.

They drop through the atmosphere

Frozen birds?  The Italian said.

Yes.  Ana nodded.  I’m afraid so.

Meanwhile, the night had turned pitch outside and the fire in the grate burned brighter. The darkness in the windows made each of them feel, unconsciously, as if a string had been pulled that drew them all together more tightly than before and cut them off momentarily from the world outside the firelight.

2007 Fiction Runner-up

Lisa Fugard - Skinner's Drift

“The books that I love, that affect me deeply are the ones that not only provide a window to the outside world, but also illuminate something within. This is why words matter, why a book has the power to transform a life. I am astonished and delighted and honored to have Skinner’s Drift recognised by the Dayton Literary Peace Prize as the Fiction Runner-up.”

— Lisa Fugard

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Bio

Lisa Fugard was born in South Africa and came to the United States in 1980. After working in the theater, performing in New York, London and South Africa, she turned her attention to writing. Her short fiction has been published in Story, Outside and literary magazines. Her many travel articles and essays have been published in the New York Times.

Skinner’s Drift her first novel has been published in the USA, UK and South Africa. Named a notable book of 2006 by the New York Times, Skinner’s Drift was also a finalist for the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. She lives in Southern California with her young son and is working on a second novel.


Book Excerpt


The shadow of the plane slid across the turquoise pools of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, buckled over ocher-colored slag heaps piled beside exhausted gold mines. The wheels thudded onto the runway, and the girls launched into “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.” Other passengers seated in her section joined in, the white South Africans humming because the Xhosa words of their new anthem still eluded them, the blacks giving full voice. A smiling American family seated at the bulkhead stood up to watch, the father filming it all with a video camera. They were going on safari; Eva had overheard them talking to the steward.

What did they think? That it was an African custom to launch into song whenever a plane touched down? A way of thanking the great spirit in the sky for bringing them safely back to earth? She looked out at the long, dry, once green grass and the exhausted blue of the mid-afternoon highveld sky. She doubted it would be an easy visit; hopefully it would be a short one.

With the end of apartheid, Jan Smuts International Airport had become Johannesburg Airport. The Witwatersrand, the area encompassing Johannesburg, Randfontein, and a few other towns, and named after a cascade of white water that the early settlers had seen, was now part of Gauteng — Eva had no idea what Gauteng meant — and the conservative Transvaal, province of stoic farmers, sofa-size rugby players, and insatiable hunters, had been divided into the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. A new country, and she sensed it the minute she passed through customs.

Gone were the young, nervy-eyed white soldiers with their machine guns; instead the terminal seemed overrun with black taxi drivers asking her if she needed a ride. No, no thank you, she said, her eyes sweeping across their faces. In the past she’d have handled them with a certain confidence, an ongoing rapid discernment — trust this one, have nothing to do with that character — her white skin at least giving her the illusion of security. Now she felt uncertain of herself.

Citation

Skinner’s Drift—that’s the name of the farm in the Limpopo River Valley near the Botswana border to which self-exiled South African Eva von Rensburg returns after living in New York for ten years. Her mother is long dead, the victim of an awful shooting accident, and now Eva is on a mission to see her dying father.

The visible landscape comes beautifully alive—at one point a character named Jannie, a friend of the family and a hunter and taxidermist sticks his head out of the window of his house and lets out a howl, because, as Fugard tells us, “he couldn’t imagine living anywhere more wild and beautiful.” We get a clear sense of that beauty in the novelist’s descriptions of the bush along the river and the horizons of the dusty roads the characters travel.

But Eva’s inner landscape is terribly troubled. She’s been carrying around with her since childhood the dark legacy of a terrible deed her father once committed, and her sense of life seems frozen, despite the climate, despite the heat. The narrative of her childhood on the farm, assisted by long passages from her late mother’s journals, gives us a view of that troubled past of hers and serves as a lively, often lyrical, counterpoint to the familial duties of the present. Her parents, the black servants and farm workers, neighboring settlers, all become quite vivid and memorable as does the feel of the time and place, the land along the sometimes flowing Limpopo, as Lefu, the aging black farm manager thinks of it, with its birds and lions, fierce sandstone cliffs, and the ancient baobab tree three miles south of the river that marked the southern boundary.

In this self-contained space, where past and present mingle, Lisa Fugard dramatizes for us the great difficulties of reconciliation, between family members, among the disparate peoples of a great African nation, between our species and the rest of nature. That she succeeds at all is a measure of her fine talent, that she transports us to this place and makes us feel the turmoil of personal politics and local disruption in our very bones marks the triumph of a powerful first novel.

— Alan Cheuse
2007 finalist judge

2007 Nonfiction Winner

Mark Kurlansky - Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea

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“I’m thrilled to receive this award because there’s no subject closer to my heart. It’s a valuable opportunity to ask people to rethink history, and I still believe the world can be changed.”

— Mark Kurlansky

Bio

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling and James A. Beard Award-winning author of The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Salt: A World History, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, as well as Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue (his debut novel) and several other books.

He lives in New York City.

Citation

As the old saying goes, “fish, cut bait, or get out of the boat.” Faced with aggression, we can respond in kind, submit, or-? “The first clue, lesson number one from human history on the subject of nonviolence, is that there is no word for it.” So opens Mark Kurlansky’s Nonviolence, an audacious, concise, and thoroughly original sweep through human history to draw twenty-four additional lessons about the nature, meaning, implications, and potential of nonviolence.

Distinct from pacifism, not a state of mind but a technique- in the Dalai Lama’s words, “a rational stimulus to action”- nonviolence has always had its practitioners, but they have been few, seldom understood, and, because considered dangerous by the state, disparaged, imprisoned, tortured, and often killed. They include Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Founding Fathers, many Abolitionists, certain Russian dissidents, the Maori leader Te Whiti, and the Dalai Lama – who has provided a heartfelt preface to this volume. His Holiness writes, “It is my hope and prayer that this book should not only attract attention, but have a profound effect on those who read it.”

A scholarly and literary gem, Kurlansky’s Nonviolence invites both contemplation and debate. Make no mistake, Nonviolence is a frontal assault on the ideology of warfare, the choice of us versus them, good versus evil, patriots versus traitors- fish or cut bait. Kurlansky asks, “Is the source of violence not human nature, as Hobbes contended, but a lack of imagination?” Could we, perhaps, get out of the boat, as it were? Kurlansky shows that with nonviolence, yes, and – lesson twenty-five – “the hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done.” This is a book about hope, a book that gives hope.

– C.M. Mayo,
2007 finalist judges


Book Excerpt


The Twenty-five Lessons
  1. There is no proactive word for nonviolence.
  2. Nations that built military forces as deterrents will eventually use them.
  3. Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
  4. Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its nonviolent teachings.
  5. A rebel can be defanged and co-opted by making him a saint after he is dead.
  6. Somewhere behind every war there are always a few founding lies.
  7. A propaganda machine promoting hatred always has a war waiting in the wings.
  8. People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
  9. A conflict between a violent and a nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
  10. The problem lies not in the nature of man but in the nature of power.
  11. The longer a war lasts, the less popular it becomes.
  12. The state imagines it is impotent without a military because it cannot conceive of power without force.
  13. It is often not the largest but the best organized and most articulate group that prevails.
  14. All debate immediately ends with an “enforced silence” when the first shots are fired.
  15. A shooting war is not necessary to overthrow an established power but it is used to consolidate the revolution itself.
  16. Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.
  17. Warfare produces peace activists. A group of veterans is a likely place to find peace activities.
  18. People motivated by fear do not act well.
  19. While it is perfectly feasible to convince a people faced with brutal repression to rise up in a suicidal attack on their oppressor, it is almost impossible to convince them to meet deadly violence with nonviolent resistance
  20. Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all- volunteer professional military.
  21. Once you start the business of killing, you get “deeper and deeper,” without limits
  22. Violence always comes with a supposedly rational explanation—which is only dismissed as irrational if the violence fails.
  23. Violence is a virus that infects and takes over.
  24. The miracle is that despite all of society’s promotion of warfare, most soldiers find warfare to be a wrenching departure from their own moral values
  25. Hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done.

2007 Nonfiction Runner-up

Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin - Three Cups of Tea:
One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time

“If we really want to end the cycle of violence defining America’s relations with the Islamic World, we need to learn to wage peace as aggressively as we wage war. One 250-pound smart bomb costs about $25,000. One Afghan or Pakistani primary school, built by the Central Asia Institute, costs the same amount of money, and will provide thousands of students with a balanced, non-extremist education for decades. Which, in the long run, do you really think will make us safer?”

— David Relin

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Bio

Greg Mortenson is the director of the Central Asia Institute. A resident of Montana, he spends several months each year in Pakistan and Afghanistan. For additional information about Greg, visit his website and for more information about his foundation, Central Asia Institute, visit www.ikat.org.

David Oliver Relin is a contributing editor for Parade Magazine and Skiing Magazine. He has won more than forty national awards for his work as a writer and editor, including Time magazine – An Asia Book of The Year 2006, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award 2006, and Banff Mountain Book Award Finalist 2006.

Citation

In Three Cups of Tea Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin tell the story of Mortenson’s stunning transformation from mountain-climber to passionate humanitarian. The writers give us a character who is at once extraordinary and deeply human.

While hiking in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same territories that gave birth to the Taliban, Mortenson is confronted with the needs of children, particularly girls, who have no school. Deeply moved, he vows to return and build them a school himself.

Most of us can easily imagine being deeply affected when confronting the needs of children as he did. Probably many of us can even imagine entertaining the idea that we really need to do something to improve the situation. But how many of us would actually return to this forbidding terrain and build not one, but fifty-five schools for girls? How many of us confront extreme need and misery and respond so concretely, with powerful conviction that ends up changing the world?

The most obvious change Mortenson makes is that now these girls can go to school. Their lives are filled with a whole new set of opportunities, and these authors show the girls as they begin to see themselves differently. But there’s another contribution Mortenson and Relin make here as writers. They invite readers into the Muslim world, a world that has been painted with a terribly broad brush for Westerners, especially after 9-11, so that many North Americans regard Muslims as fanatical, dangerous people. Mortenson and Relin reveal not only the humanity of the people from this part of the world, but also the humbling generosity, and the deeply spiritual orientation that gives them the strength to make Mortenson’s mission possible. Without the Muslim men as guides, without their help with physical labor and their knowledge of the landscape, Mortenson could have done nothing.

Mortenson is both a man building schools, and an ambassador of peace. He shows how deep change happens on a personal level, between individuals, and how those changes reverberate throughout an entire culture. These two writers have educated us all about a part of the world our own culture has attempted to demonize. Through this important book we all get to share Mortenson’s intimate view, a view so deeply rooted in knowledge and compassion, there’s little room left for fear.

– Jane McCafferty,
2007 finalist judges

2007 Book Nominations

1. The Accidental President of Brazil by Fernando Henrique Cardoso

2. Among the Righteous by Robert Satloff

3. At Canaan’s Edge by Taylor Branch

4. Awake in the Dark by Shira Nayman

5. The Bush Agenda by Antonia Juhasz

6. Birds in Fall** by Brad Kessler

7. The Buddha and the Terrorist by Satish

8. The Colony by John Tayman

9. Death in the Haymarket by James Green

10. East Wind, Rain by Caroline Paul

11. Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta

12. The End of Iraq by Peter W. Galbraith

13. Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario

14. Ethical Realism by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman

15. The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, Priscilla Warner

16. Fear by Jan T. Gross

17. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

18. The Great Escape by Kati Marton

19. The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley

20. Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power by Joseph Margulies

** Fiction Winner
++ Nonfiction Winner
* Fiction Runner-up
+ Nonfiction Runner-up

21. House of War by James Carroll

22. The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle

23. Language of God by Francis Collins

24. The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

25. A Moment of Crisis by Marion Creekmore

26. Muhammed by Karen Armstrong

27. Nonviolence++ by Mark Kurlansky

28. Once in a Promised Land by Laila Halaby

29. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter

30. Prince of the Marshes by Rory Stewart

31. Prisoners by Jeffrey Goldberg

32. Rabble Rouser for Peace by John Allen

33. Sala’s Gift by Ann Kirschner

34. Skinner’s Driftby Lisa Fugard

35. The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien

36. This Has Happened by Piera Sonnino, translator: Ann Goldstein

37. Three Cups of Teaby Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

38. The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson

39. Unbowedby Wangari Maathai40. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

2007 Finalists

Fiction

Skinner’s Drift by Lisa Fugard (Scribner):

In this beautiful, brave, and extraordinarily moving first novel, Lisa Fugard paints a haunting portrait of a young woman coming to terms with her family’s violent past as her homeland, South Africa, confronts its own bloody history.

The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gien (Random House):

In this heartrending and inspiring novel set against the gorgeous, vast landscape of South Africa under apartheid, award-winning playwright Pamela Gien tells the story of two families–one black, one white–separated by racism, connected by love.

Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler (Scribner):

One fall night off the coast of a remote island in Nova Scotia, an airplane plummets to the sea as an innkeeper watches from the shore. Miles away in New York City, ornithologist Ana Gathreaux works in a darkened room, full of sparrows, testing their migratory instincts. Soon, Ana will be bound for Trachis Island, along with other relatives of victims who converge on the site of the tragedy.

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen (Random House):

Set against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced–the 1918 flu epidemic–Thomas Mullen’s powerful, sweeping first novel is a tale of morality in a time of upheaval.

The Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa’ Thiong’o (Pantheon):

Set in the fictional Free Republic of Aburiria, Wizard of the Crowdramatizes with corrosive humor and keenness of observation a battle for the souls of the Aburirian people, between a megalomaniac dictator and an unemployed young man who embraces the mantle of a magician.

Nonfiction

At Canaan’s Edge by Taylor Branch (Simon and Schuster):

At Canaan’s Edge concludes America in the King Years, a three-volume history that will endure as a masterpiece of storytelling on American race, violence, and democracy. Pulitzer Prize-winner and bestselling author Taylor Branch makes clear in this magisterial account of the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King, Jr., earned a place next to James Madison and Abraham Lincoln in the pantheon of American history.

Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Continental Divide by Jeffrey Goldberg (Knopf):

They met in 1990 during the first Palestinian uprising—one was an American Jew who served as a prison guard in the largest prison in Israel, the other, his prisoner, Rafiq, a rising leader in the PLO. Despite their fears and prejudices, they began a dialogue there that grew into a remarkable friendship—and now a remarkable book. It is a book that confronts head-on the issues dividing the Middle East, but one that also shines a ray of hope on that dark, embattled region.

Sala’s Gift by Ann Kirschner (Free Press):

Ann Kirschner allows her mother’s poignant story to emerge from these heartbreaking missives, filling in the gaps with a dignified, quietly eloquent connecting narrative…an incredible journey through hell and back.

Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons From The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky (Modern Library):

In this timely, highly original, and controversial narrative, author Mark Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind: nonviolence can and should be a technique for overcoming social injustice and ending wars, which is why it is the preferred method of those who speak truth to power.

Unbowed by Wangari Maathi (Anchor):

Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage.

Prince of the Marshes by Rory Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Company):

In August 2003, at the age of thirty, Rory Stewart took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad. A Farsi-speaking British diplomat who had recently completed an epic walk from Turkey to Bangladesh, he was soon appointed deputy governor of Amarah and then Nasiriyah, provinces in the remote, impoverished marsh regions of southern Iraq. He spent the next eleven months negotiating hostage releases, holding elections, and splicing together some semblance of an infrastructure for a population of millions teetering on the brink of civil war.

2007 Finalist Judges

Fiction

Alan Cheuse

is a novelist, essayist and story writer described as “The Voice of Books on National Public Radio.” For nearly twenty five years, Cheuse has been “reading for America” every week on NPR, and writing a number of books of his own. He is the author of three novels, including The Grandmothers’ Club and The Light Possessed, a pair of novellas recently published as The Fires, three collections of short stories, a memoir (Fall Out of Heaven), and a collection of essays titled Listening to the Page: Adventures in Reading and Writing. Cheuse has also written numerous travel pieces, occasional essays, and print reviews for such publications as The New York Times, Gourmet, the Lands’ End catalog, The Chicago Tribune, Washington Post Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News. Cheuse has taught fiction and nonfiction writing—and literature—at such distinguished institutions as the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia. Since 1987 he has been a member of the writing faculty at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. His own short stories have recently appeared in Ploughshares, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, and The Southern Review. He is also the editor of Seeing Ourselves: Great Early American Short Stories and co-editor of Writers Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction.

  Amy Hempel

is the author of four collections of short stories which all appear in The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, one of the New York Times Best Books of the Year for 2006. It was a finalist for the PEN-Faulkner Award, and won the Ambassador Book Award for Best Fiction of the Year. Her stories have been published in Harper’s, Vanity Fair, The Yale Review, Playboy, and many others, and have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Her nonfiction has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Vanity Fair, O, Elle, Vogue, Bomb, and many other publications. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a United States Artists Fellowship. She teaches in the graduate writing programs at Bennington and Sarah Lawrence, and lives in New York City.

Nonfiction

C. M. Mayo

is the author of Miraculous Air Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions) and Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press) which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Her many other awards include two Washington Prizes for Best Personal Essay and three Lowell Thomas Awards for travel journalism. An avid translator of contemporary Mexican literaure, Mayo is also founding editor of Tameme, a bilingual chapbook press, and editor of Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, a collection of Mexican fiction and literary prose. She divides her time between Washington DC and Mexico City. Her website is www.cmmayo.com.

Jane McCafferty

is author of three books of fiction: Director of The World and Other Stories, which won the Drue Heinz Prize for Literature and the Great Lakes New Writers Award, a novel, One Heart, and a second volume of stories, Thank You For The Music, from HarperCollins. She has received an NEA grant for a section of her novel, and two Pushcart prizes in non-fiction and fiction. Her essays and stories have been published in a variety of literary journals, and six of her stories have been listed in Best American Short Stories. She has recently edited an anthology of writings by mentally ill people and those who care for them. She is an associate professor of English/Writing at Carnegie Mellon University.

2007 Awards Ceremony

See videos from the 2007 Award Ceremony!

Lifetime Achievment Award Elie Wiesel

Fiction Award Brad Kessler for Birds in Fall

Nonfiction Award Mark Kurlansky for Nonviolence

Fiction Runner-up Lisa Fugard for Skinner’s Drift

Nonfiction Runner-up Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin for Three Cups of Tea

Additional Videos