Dayton Literary Peace Prize

2013 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke
Distinguished Achievement Award

Wendell Berry

“In a time that spends so many words and dollars upon conflict it is encouraging to be noticed for having said a few words in favor of peace.”

— Wendell Berry                       

wendellberry
Play Video

Bio

Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and essays. He was recently awarded the National Humanities Medal, the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Louis Bromfield Society Award. For more than forty years, he has lived and farmed with his wife, Tanya Berry, in Kentucky.

Read the full press release

wendell-berry-think-little-2013
wendell-berry-new-collected-poems-2013
wendell-berry-what-are-people-for-2013

 

Book Excerpt


I imagined that soldiers who are killed in war just disappear from the places where they are killed.  Their deaths may be remembered by the comrades who saw them die, if the comrades live to remember.  Their deaths will not be remembered where they happened.  They will not be remembered in the halls of the government.  Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle?  They die at home—in Port William and thousands of other little darkened places, in thousands upon thousands of houses where The News comes, and everything on the tables and shelves is all of a sudden a relic and a reminder forever.

Citation

Wendell Berry has been compared to Thomas Jefferson, for his wisdom in land management; to Edward Abbey, for his condemnation of projects that upset the balance of nature; to Thoreau, for his appreciation of the natural world; and to Wallace Stegner, for his sense of place. The essayist, philosopher, poet, professor, and novelist has also long been known as a proponent of peace, one who hates every war, including “good” ones.


Not only do his books reflect the love of peace that is the absence of war, but other kinds of peace, as well. The peace of mind from knowing who we are and where we come from figures prominently in his work.


When it comes to “where we come from,” Wendell and I have much in common. My brother-in-law is from Wendell’s beloved Henry County, and his sister married a Berry—but no relation. Wendell and I were born just a few months apart. When he was entering the University of Kentucky, I was enrolling at the University of Louisville. We both have deep roots in rural Kentucky, his in Henry County, mine in Larue County, about 100 miles and about two hours apart. We both had grandfathers who had general stores.


And yet, while he has drawn on a rich lode of memories for literary inspiration, I would have described my numerous childhood visits from Louisville to Larue County’s Buffalo as long episodes of boredom; I longed for exotic faraway places. It is only in later years that I can truly appreciate the past and see that the Buffalo folks, very much like those of his fictional Port William, were not boring at all.

Consider my maternal grandmother, who, at 17 and an only child, under the pretext of visiting a cousin took the buggy and left her small Catholic community to elope with my Protestant grandfather. . . My paternal Granddaddy Brown, a deputy sheriff, told of escorting a murderer to prison, sharing a hotel room bed on the way, as was the custom. He claimed he wasn’t afraid, but he did sleep with a gun under his pillow. . . . Love affairs, tragedies and joys—all the dramas of life were played out there.


Wendell’s descriptions of rural Kentucky ring so true that I am struck by a jolt of recognition, and I want to shout, “Yes, that’s the way it was!” I grew up hearing stories of the Great Flood of 1937, featured so prominently in Jayber Crow. The 1918 flu epidemic that carried off Jayber’s parents also killed my mother’s baby brother and her pregnant sister’s husband. The accents he records were the same; I had forgotten how my grandmother spoke of “ahrning” clothes. Like the grandmothers in his books, she, too, made her own soap; the bucket of lye was a fearsome thing. There was the same put-down humor, which my sister and I called “Buffalo humor,” and the same kind of relations between the races. Those, although not equal, were at least personal. Once when “Aunt Cissy,” an African American, came to visit, I must have smarted off in some way and was told in no uncertain terms that Aunt Cissy was my grandmother’s friend, and I was to show her respect.


There was the same sense of community in Buffalo as in the fictional Port William, a closeness which would bring my parents back to “the old home place” so often. And there was the same love of the land that kept my father coming back on weekends to check on his farm, while we waited interminably in the car.


My grandfather’s general store seems to have been peopled by the same farmers as Wendell’s grandfather’s, who played checkers close to the pot-bellied stove in the winter and drank with a dipper from the water bucket. I wonder if the stores smelled the same—a mixture of tobacco, cheap candy, dyed cloth, and dried peaches. And I wonder if, he, too, sneaked lumps of sugar out of the sugar barrel.


Andy Catlett in the book of that name echoes my thoughts when he says, “Now I can wish that I had foreseen then what I would want to know now, and had asked the questions I now wish I had asked.”


Although Wendell would prefer to be known as an agrarian writer rather than an environmentalist in the traditional sense, best of all are his descriptions of nature, seen through the prism of a poet. “Here on the river,” says Jayber Crow, “I have known peace and beauty such as I never knew in any other place. . .”


Waterways hold a special place in his books, in fact they seem to take on a life of their own. In Hannah Coulter the water “comes down in a hurry, tossing itself this way and that as it tumbles among the broken pieces of old bottom. The stream seems to be talking. . .” In Jayber Crow “the river seems to be holding itself up before you like a page opened to be read. There is no knowing how the currents move. They shift and boil and eddy. . . .” And at Coulter Branch, where “the water fell with a hundred voices down steps and glides among the rocks from pool to pool, where the mosses were bright green on the rocks and the tree roots and the stonecrop was in bloom, we saw a red fox step out of the undergrowth into a shaft of sunlight where he paused, a moment, glowing, and disappeared like a flame put out.”


I have traveled to the Red River Gorge many times, but it was not until reading The Unforeseen Wilderness, written to protest the planned construction of a river-dooming dam, that I realized that I have looked without seeing and heard without listening. We enter a magical place when we read that in the gorge he found “a little dell in the woods where several streams met, making a pattern like a chicken track. The air opened and grew spacious under great hemlocks and beeches; shafts of sunlight slanted in as thick as the tree trunks. . .” At another spot, hearing “warblers singing everywhere,” he writes, “We linger over the rock gardens along the shores, examining their growth of lichens and moss and liverworts, violets and bluets and rue. The laurel bushes that here and there overhang the banks are in bloom. . . In front of us there is a series of narrow ledges, divided by sheer high falls of the rock. From the top ledge, high up against the sky, a little stream leaps and slides, glittering and spattering, until finally it is gathered again in to the tidy stream at our feet. The ledges are all covered and hung with flowers and mosses and ferns. On the other sides of the opening the forest rises tall and densely green. It is the wildest of places . . . “


And, finally, The Peace of Wild Things is a lesson in serenity:


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s
lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and
the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Nancy Brown Diggs

 

Book Excerpt


I imagined that soldiers who are killed in war just disappear from the places where they are killed.  Their deaths may be remembered by the comrades who saw them die, if the comrades live to remember.  Their deaths will not be remembered where they happened.  They will not be remembered in the halls of the government.  Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle?  They die at home—in Port William and thousands of other little darkened places, in thousands upon thousands of houses where The News comes, and everything on the tables and shelves is all of a sudden a relic and a reminder forever.

Citation

Wendell Berry has been compared to Thomas Jefferson, for his wisdom in land management; to Edward Abbey, for his condemnation of projects that upset the balance of nature; to Thoreau, for his appreciation of the natural world; and to Wallace Stegner, for his sense of place. The essayist, philosopher, poet, professor, and novelist has also long been known as a proponent of peace, one who hates every war, including “good” ones.

Not only do his books reflect the love of peace that is the absence of war, but other kinds of peace, as well. The peace of mind from knowing who we are and where we come from figures prominently in his work.

When it comes to “where we come from,” Wendell and I have much in common. My brother-in-law is from Wendell’s beloved Henry County, and his sister married a Berry—but no relation. Wendell and I were born just a few months apart. When he was entering the University of Kentucky, I was enrolling at the University of Louisville. We both have deep roots in rural Kentucky, his in Henry County, mine in Larue County, about 100 miles and about two hours apart. We both had grandfathers who had general stores.

And yet, while he has drawn on a rich lode of memories for literary inspiration, I would have described my numerous childhood visits from Louisville to Larue County’s Buffalo as long episodes of boredom; I longed for exotic faraway places. It is only in later years that I can truly appreciate the past and see that the Buffalo folks, very much like those of his fictional Port William, were not boring at all.

Consider my maternal grandmother, who, at 17 and an only child, under the pretext of visiting a cousin took the buggy and left her small Catholic community to elope with my Protestant grandfather. . . My paternal Granddaddy Brown, a deputy sheriff, told of escorting a murderer to prison, sharing a hotel room bed on the way, as was the custom. He claimed he wasn’t afraid, but he did sleep with a gun under his pillow. . . . Love affairs, tragedies and joys—all the dramas of life were played out there.

Wendell’s descriptions of rural Kentucky ring so true that I am struck by a jolt of recognition, and I want to shout, “Yes, that’s the way it was!” I grew up hearing stories of the Great Flood of 1937, featured so prominently in Jayber Crow. The 1918 flu epidemic that carried off Jayber’s parents also killed my mother’s baby brother and her pregnant sister’s husband. The accents he records were the same; I had forgotten how my grandmother spoke of “ahrning” clothes. Like the grandmothers in his books, she, too, made her own soap; the bucket of lye was a fearsome thing. There was the same put-down humor, which my sister and I called “Buffalo humor,” and the same kind of relations between the races. Those, although not equal, were at least personal. Once when “Aunt Cissy,” an African American, came to visit, I must have smarted off in some way and was told in no uncertain terms that Aunt Cissy was my grandmother’s friend, and I was to show her respect.

There was the same sense of community in Buffalo as in the fictional Port William, a closeness which would bring my parents back to “the old home place” so often. And there was the same love of the land that kept my father coming back on weekends to check on his farm, while we waited interminably in the car.

My grandfather’s general store seems to have been peopled by the same farmers as Wendell’s grandfather’s, who played checkers close to the pot-bellied stove in the winter and drank with a dipper from the water bucket. I wonder if the stores smelled the same—a mixture of tobacco, cheap candy, dyed cloth, and dried peaches. And I wonder if, he, too, sneaked lumps of sugar out of the sugar barrel.

Andy Catlett in the book of that name echoes my thoughts when he says, “Now I can wish that I had foreseen then what I would want to know now, and had asked the questions I now wish I had asked.”

Although Wendell would prefer to be known as an agrarian writer rather than an environmentalist in the traditional sense, best of all are his descriptions of nature, seen through the prism of a poet. “Here on the river,” says Jayber Crow, “I have known peace and beauty such as I never knew in any other place. . .”

Waterways hold a special place in his books, in fact they seem to take on a life of their own. In Hannah Coulter the water “comes down in a hurry, tossing itself this way and that as it tumbles among the broken pieces of old bottom. The stream seems to be talking. . .” In Jayber Crow “the river seems to be holding itself up before you like a page opened to be read. There is no knowing how the currents move. They shift and boil and eddy. . . .” And at Coulter Branch, where “the water fell with a hundred voices down steps and glides among the rocks from pool to pool, where the mosses were bright green on the rocks and the tree roots and the stonecrop was in bloom, we saw a red fox step out of the undergrowth into a shaft of sunlight where he paused, a moment, glowing, and disappeared like a flame put out.”

I have traveled to the Red River Gorge many times, but it was not until reading The Unforeseen Wilderness, written to protest the planned construction of a river-dooming dam, that I realized that I have looked without seeing and heard without listening. We enter a magical place when we read that in the gorge he found “a little dell in the woods where several streams met, making a pattern like a chicken track. The air opened and grew spacious under great hemlocks and beeches; shafts of sunlight slanted in as thick as the tree trunks. . .” At another spot, hearing “warblers singing everywhere,” he writes, “We linger over the rock gardens along the shores, examining their growth of lichens and moss and liverworts, violets and bluets and rue. The laurel bushes that here and there overhang the banks are in bloom. . . In front of us there is a series of narrow ledges, divided by sheer high falls of the rock. From the top ledge, high up against the sky, a little stream leaps and slides, glittering and spattering, until finally it is gathered again in to the tidy stream at our feet. The ledges are all covered and hung with flowers and mosses and ferns. On the other sides of the opening the forest rises tall and densely green. It is the wildest of places . . . “

And, finally, The Peace of Wild Things is a lesson in serenity:

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Nancy Brown Diggs

2013 Fiction Winner

Adam Johnson - The Orphan Master's Son

Play Video

“The first step toward peace is listening. In researching the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I heard the stories of many defectors, each of whom told similar tales: that in North Korea, to reveal event the simplest personal thought was to invite dangerous scrutiny from the state. I came to understand that few people on earth have been rendered as voiceless as those born under the Kim regime. After a legacy of occupation, subjugation, partition and war, the resilient citizens of North Korea were greeted with six decades of a cruel and controlling totalitarian dictatorship. For more than a century, Korean literature has been outlawed in the North, and as a result, citizens of the DPRK are five generations removed from their literary tradition. They have never read a book that wasn’t censored, state-approved and designed solely to glorify either their Japanese occupiers or the Kim leadership. While writing The Orphan Master’s Son, I found myself asking a simple question: Who was I to speak for a group whose experience was so far from my own? But after hearing the stories of defectors who, even after gaining freedom, were afraid to criticize Kim Jong-il, I started wondering: Why don’t more people attempt to lend voice to those from whom it has been stolen? One of the purposes of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, in my estimation, is to serve as an invitation for writers to do just that, and it is my great honor to have written a book worthy of being counted among others who have attempted such an important task.”

— Adam Johnson                       

Bio

Adam Johnson is a novelist and short story writer, whose work has received wide acclaim, including the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for The Orphan Master’s Son. New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani called the bestselling work “a novel that not only opens a frightening window on the mysterious kingdom of North Korea, but one that also excavates the very meaning of love and sacrifice.”

Johnson also is the author of Emporium, a short story collection, and the novel, Parasites Like Us, which won a California Book Award in 2003. Recognition for his work includes a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Swarthout Writing Award, and the 2010 Gina Berriault Literary Award. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship and a Kingsbury Fellowship. In 2002, Amazon.com named Johnson Debut Writer of the Year.

A native of South Dakota, Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, Granta, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories. He lives in San Francisco.

Citation

“If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change,” we are told in Adam Johnson’s important, intricately layered novel, The Orphan Master’s Son.

Here Adam Johnson has written a life story of a soul in the world — or two life stories, as one is the story of Jun Do as constructed by his country, and the other is Jun Do under his own steam, an individual man in a harsh time. Jun Do is raised in a punishing North Korean orphanage and the vicissitudes of his struggle forward take us through all of the resolute darkness of our age. He commences with mandated crimes, kidnapping Japanese citizens, an opera singer, all at the pleasure of the national power, the Dear Leader. The story as it deepens and moves through eye-widening outrages with operatic virtuosity also never succumbs to the temptation to become inflated or polemic. The story stays close to Jun Do’s journey from a radio operator on a fishing vessel to his role as false ambassador on the classic state mission to Texas, an Americana which rings in its own way of jingoism and harm. Johnson captures vivid, often horrifying episodes with his measured but unflinching prose. His protagonist climbs, story by story, to the upper levels of power. The diplomacy between the two countries is an exchange of veiled — and not so veiled—insults and it all returns Jun Do to his punishing homeland with a new identity and a double life which, rife with jeopardy and pain, deepens even further the complications of National character—one constructed by one’s country -in conflict with individual character.

Everywhere in this novel is evidence of a vivid and muscular imagination. A nation, any nation, that lies to its people is forever at war. At war with itself. This important book exemplifies the great features of literary storytelling in small but ringingly suggestive human moments lived under the constant pressure of a government’s crushing and many times arbitrary force.

— Michelle Latiolais
2013 finalist judge


Book Excerpt


“There is a talk that every father has with his son in which he brings the child to understand that there are ways we must act, things we must say. But inside, we are still us. We are still family. I was eight when my father had this talk with me. We were under a tree on Moranbong Hill. He told me that there was a path set out for us. On it, we had to do everything the signs commanded and heed all the announcements along the way. Even if we walked this path side by side, he said, we must act alone on the outside, while on the inside we would still be holding hands.”

2013 Fiction Runner-up

Ben Fountain - Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

“The vast preponderance of American culture leans toward war. If this country is going to survive, we need institutions that encourage a more thoughtful, less reflexively belligerent approach to America’s role in the world. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is one such institution, and I’m very proud to be this year’s fiction runner-up.”

— Ben Fountain

Play Video

Bio

Ben Fountain is the author a novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and a story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. His work has received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and a Whiting Writer’s Award and also has been a finalist for the National Book Award both in the United States and the U.K. His nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. His reportage on post-earthquake Haiti was broadcast nationally on the radio show “This American Life.” A graduate of Duke University School of Law, he practiced real estate law before quitting the law in 1988 to become a full-time writer. He lives in Dallas, Texas.


Book Excerpt


If there is real knowledge to be had in the Texas public schools he never found it, and only lately had he started to feel the loss, the huge criminal act of his state-sanctioned ignorance as he struggles to understand the wider world. How it works, who gains, who loses, who decides. It is not a casual thing, this knowledge. In a way it might be everything. A young man needs to know where he stands in the world, not just as a matter of basic human dignity but as determinants in the ways and means of survival, and what you might hope to gain by application of honest effort.

Citation

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is the great American novel of war and peace for our times, as we reckon in the early 21st Century with years of involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The storytelling genius here favors an encompassing look at war and soldiering juxtaposed with civilian discomfort and worse. Billy Lynn and his Bravo squad buddies are dropped into the most heightened spectacle-drenched civilian parallel universe: an NFL game, Dallas Cowboys at home in Texas. Bravo squad is on leave at the game in 2004 for their last “Victory Tour” stop. They are primed to meet Destiny’s Child during a halftime extravaganza that will involve the soldiers. After an embedded cameraman caught Bravo heroics in Iraq on film, the government saw the opportunity to energize war fever and sent them on the road. Hollywood is on hand, talking blockbuster potential. Billy Lynn is nineteen.

The story takes place over just a few hours, game time. The verve of this storytelling choice is exciting and germane to the large picture that Ben Fountain wishes to present, commingling and contrasting soldiers and civilians, war and the war-like game of football, our seduction by celebrity. Here, too, authentic self (flawed, of course) meets the easy con. Maintaining narrative momentum, Fountain dips into Billy’s past and interior self, fluid rather than schematic, to reveal boyish dreams, loss in war, and a soldier’s growing awareness of a more cunning and complex civilian world than he’d previously known. Wisdoms expressed by Billy are earned, believable and profound, strengthening the fabric of character and story. The novel weaves a narrative of personal stakes and societal shortcomings in our Iraqi involvement. Zestful vernacular speech delineates the ensemble of soldiers, adds texture and nimbly paces the story. Through sly cheer, braggadocio, profane asides and quirks of actions, the seriousness of the soldiers’ camaraderie and their outsider status at the game, and in the life they’ve known, is created. We come to know and root for all of them. Though this is Billy’s story, everyone gets a say: his comrades, yes, and many civilians — all used to living at a remove from war, from actual soldiers. Their incomprehension and haplessness are expressed variously in gushing thanks, muttered asides, avoidances, and bluntly probing questions. Such characters serve to draw in and discomfit the reader, as Fountain would wish. Perhaps there are no words to bridge the gap, at least not at a war-as-game football stadium with lunatic spectacle reigning supreme. But in the tradition of Flannery O’Connor whose belief that humor and horror riding neck and neck in fiction reveal most truthfully the human condition, Fountain adheres and makes the case brand new. His generosity of spirit extends over the whole shebang, most memorably over Billy.

— Maureen McCoy
2013 finalist judge

2013 Nonfiction Winner

Andrew Solomon - Far From the Tree

Play Video

“I am enormously honored to receive this prize. My greatest hope in writing this book was that its stories could help build a kinder and more tolerant world. The people I wrote about have given voice to profound love achieved under what the world would deem adverse circumstances. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize acknowledges their valiance, and will underscore their remarkable ability, so central to social justice, to accept people not for who they should be, but for who they are.”

— Andrew Solomon

 

Bio

Andrew Solomon is the author of two New York Times bestsellers – Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, which won the 2001 National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. The Noonday Demon also made The Times list of the 100 best books of the decade.

Solomon also wrote the critically acclaimed novel A Stone Boat, about a concert pianist’s struggle to come to terms with his dying mother, his own sexuality and the most important relationships in his life. He is a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell University and Special Advisor on LGBT affairs to the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. His journalism appears frequently in The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Travel + Leisure, and Newsweek/The Daily Beast.

Citation

The apple never falls far from the tree, commonly means that children exhibit the same or similar traits as their parents. In Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon turns this adage upside down and examines what happens when the bundle delivered by the stork defies that convention. Sometimes, Solomon writes, the apple falls at least a couple of orchards away.

With ten years of research, thousands of interviews and hundreds of examples, he examines what happens when parental expectations fall off the cliff, when their children arrive with horizontal identities—deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia—conditions not found on the family tree.

Solomon exhaustively examines ten conditions that can make parenthood a walk in the dark, abnormal chromosomes and other quirks of biology that produce a child who must pursue life on an altered playing field. It is a massive accumulation of evidence, a breathtakingly humane study of a part of the human condition that lies outside common experience.

Parenting is no sport for perfectionists, Solomon writes, and his focus is equally on the life of the child and the challenges to the parents. “Why do parents raise children unlike the ones they thought they could love?” he asks. And sometimes when the struggle seems endless and hopeless, the parents he interviews admit, “Had we known what we know now, we wouldn’t have done it.”

Speaking for myself, there was not a single chapter—from deafness to children conceived in rape to transgender to prodigies — where I did not discover my learning curve was very steep. In ever instance, Solomon takes his readers deep inside a series of illustrative cases. The confidences yielded by his informants are tribute to Andrew Solomon’s humanity and his interviewing skills.

Book Excerpt


Children ensnared me the moment I connected fatherhood with loss, but I am not sure I would have noticed that if I hadn’t been immersed in this research. Encountering so much strange love, I fell into its bewitching patterns, and saw how splendor can illuminate even the most abject vulnerabilities. I had witnessed and learned the terrifying joy of unbearable responsibility, recognized how it conquers everything else. Sometimes, I had thought the heroic parents in this book were fools, enslaving themselves to a life’s journey with their alien children, trying to breed identity out of misery. I was startled to learn that my research had built me a plank, and that I was ready to join them on their ship.
So talented is the author at telling these stories that Far From the Tree reads like a good novel. For example, he visits the Little People of America conference, an event for people with dwarfism that features athletic competitions, a talent and fashion show, all tailored to little bodies, along with much anticipated opportunities for dating. Dwarfs mainly find affinity through their horizontal trait, and Solomon’s descriptions are so beautifully textured that the reader feels he is along on the trip.

For parents of children like the ones we meet under Andrew Solomon’s tutelage, life is endlessly unknowable. Yet, as he says right at the outset, “There is no such thing as reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they engage in an act of production.” When the apple doesn’t fall close to the tree, parenthood is abruptly catapulted into a permanent relationship with a stranger. When the transmission of identity from one generation to the next does not come out as expected, parents must love the children for themselves and not the best of ourselves in them.

That can be a great deal more difficult, and as Far From the Tree reveals, some parents succeed and some do not.

– Ken Bode
2013 finalist judge

Citation

The apple never falls far from the tree, commonly means that children exhibit the same or similar traits as their parents. In Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon turns this adage upside down and examines what happens when the bundle delivered by the stork defies that convention. Sometimes, Solomon writes, the apple falls at least a couple of orchards away.

With ten years of research, thousands of interviews and hundreds of examples, he examines what happens when parental expectations fall off the cliff, when their children arrive with horizontal identities—deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia—conditions not found on the family tree.

Solomon exhaustively examines ten conditions that can make parenthood a walk in the dark, abnormal chromosomes and other quirks of biology that produce a child who must pursue life on an altered playing field. It is a massive accumulation of evidence, a breathtakingly humane study of a part of the human condition that lies outside common experience.

Parenting is no sport for perfectionists, Solomon writes, and his focus is equally on the life of the child and the challenges to the parents. “Why do parents raise children unlike the ones they thought they could love?” he asks. And sometimes when the struggle seems endless and hopeless, the parents he interviews admit, “Had we known what we know now, we wouldn’t have done it.”

Speaking for myself, there was not a single chapter—from deafness to children conceived in rape to transgender to prodigies — where I did not discover my learning curve was very steep. In ever instance, Solomon takes his readers deep inside a series of illustrative cases. The confidences yielded by his informants are tribute to Andrew Solomon’s humanity and his interviewing skills.

So talented is the author at telling these stories that Far From the Tree reads like a good novel. For example, he visits the Little People of America conference, an event for people with dwarfism that features athletic competitions, a talent and fashion show, all tailored to little bodies, along with much anticipated opportunities for dating. Dwarfs mainly find affinity through their horizontal trait, and Solomon’s descriptions are so beautifully textured that the reader feels he is along on the trip.

For parents of children like the ones we meet under Andrew Solomon’s tutelage, life is endlessly unknowable. Yet, as he says right at the outset, “There is no such thing as reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they engage in an act of production.” When the apple doesn’t fall close to the tree, parenthood is abruptly catapulted into a permanent relationship with a stranger. When the transmission of identity from one generation to the next does not come out as expected, parents must love the children for themselves and not the best of ourselves in them.

That can be a great deal more difficult, and as Far From the Tree reveals, some parents succeed and some do not.

– Ken Bode
2013 finalist judge


Book Excerpt


Children ensnared me the moment I connected fatherhood with loss, but I am not sure I would have noticed that if I hadn’t been immersed in this research. Encountering so much strange love, I fell into its bewitching patterns, and saw how splendor can illuminate even the most abject vulnerabilities. I had witnessed and learned the terrifying joy of unbearable responsibility, recognized how it conquers everything else. Sometimes, I had thought the heroic parents in this book were fools, enslaving themselves to a life’s journey with their alien children, trying to breed identity out of misery. I was startled to learn that my research had built me a plank, and that I was ready to join them on their ship.

2013 Nonfiction Runner-up

Gilbert King - Devil in the Grove

“In a Supreme Court decision striking down the death penalty in 1972, Thurgood Marshall wrote, ‘In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.’ Marshall’s words are a beacon for those who pushed through darkness and violence to bring about peace and social justice. As storytellers, can we aspire to a more noble truth?”

— Gilbert King            

Play Video

Bio

Gilbert King is the author of Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, which was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times called it, “must-read, cannot-put-down history,” while Junot Diaz described the book as “superb.” The book was also a finalist for The Chautauqua Prize and nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. King is originally from Schenectady, NY. He has written about race, Supreme Court history, and the death penalty for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Pacific Standard. He is also a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine’s history blog, Past Imperfect. His book, The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South was published in 2008 and described by Counterpunch magazine as “almost certainly the best book on capital punishment in America since Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song.” King lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and a French Bulldog named Louis.


Book Excerpt


On Marshall’s journeys, when the moon lit the passing landscapes of the South, he customarily drank bourbon, and he enjoyed the company of the night porters—they’d joke and talk together in segregated cars atop suitcases and the occasional casket. Or, sitting in the coach car, Marshall would drift in and out of sleep to the lullaby of the locomotive, its plaintive cry announcing every crossing as it rolled onward, southward, closer and closer to benighted towns billeting hostile prosecutors, malicious police, and the Ku Klux Klan. In the rhythm of the rails came the whipping of the wind as again the dream descended on him, and in the wind the massive black flag unfurled outside the offices of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and as a pall fell over Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, he read again the message, in stark white letters on the flag’s flapping black field: “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday.”

Interview with Vic Mickunas on WYSO's "Book Nook."

On May 16, 2018, Gilbert King was interviewed about his new book, Beneath a Ruthless Sun, on WYSO’s “Book Nook” program by host Vick Mickunas.

At minute 22:15 in the broadcast when asked why he came to Dayton, Gilbert said:

I have been coming for about the last five years to the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and I’ve met so many great friends, including Sharon Rab who runs it. Over the years I’ve met so many great Dayton people. [Dayton is] one of the greatest reading communities [that] I’ve ever encountered anywhere in the country. People just take books and reading so seriously in Dayton. It’s just an absolute pleasure for writers to come out there and be a part of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Everyone is jealous, I’m telling you, everybody wants to get out there because they’ve heard such great things from all the writers who have come out here – what a special weekend it is with all the panels and the awards dinner. I do have a really strong connection [to Dayton]. I feel like this is my home-away-from-home in a lot of ways.

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

 

Citation

On July 15, 1949, as Gilbert King relates in his superlatively researched and utterly mesmerizing book, Devil in the Grove, a young Lake County, Florida, white man, Willie Padgett, was driving his estranged 17-year-old wife, Norma Lee, home from a night of drinking and dancing when their dilapidated 1940 Ford broke down. Two African-American World War II veterans, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin, stopped to offer their assistance, but Padgett, roaring drunk, took exception to their efforts, and a fight ensued. The next day, Sheppard and Irvin, and two other black men who hadn’t even been on the scene, stood accused of raping Norma Lee Padgett, a crime that, almost certainly, was never committed. Before long, the Ku Klux Klan had “defended the flower of Southern womanhood” by torching a black section of the town of Groveland, and a mob of vigilantes, possibly led by Lake County Sheriff Willis V. McCall himself, had murdered one of four accused men in cold blood.

The NAACP’s Thurgood Marshall knew that, in the white supremacist Southern courts of the mid-20th Century, any black man accused of sexually violating a white woman was certain to be found guilty. But he also recognized that a properly conceived defense of the three remaining “Groveland Boys” presented an opportunity not only to win their case on appeal, but also to establish precedents that could help dismantle Jim Crow. Ignoring the daunting personal risk involved (indeed, one of his Florida-based NAACP colleagues was killed in a house bombing soon thereafter), Marshall assumed leadership of the case.

Gilbert King has taken advantage of the unique access he was granted to NAACP files and uncensored FBI transcripts to construct a minute-by-minute account that is at once a harrowing crime thriller and an intimate portrait of Marshall and his fellow NAACP lawyers. At the time he was defending the Groveland Boys, Marshall was also preparing to argue the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court, a coincidence that has enabled King to demonstrate, as no historian has before, how the NAACP’s tactics in every case that it handled were part of a disciplined and brilliantly coordinated strategy that succeeded in ending segregation in America.

Thurgood Marshall ultimately convinced the Supreme Court to overturn the Groveland Boys’ inevitable Florida conviction. The victory was a legal triumph, but, in human terms, it was wrenchingly hollow. Sheriff McCall took it upon himself to transport two of the defendants to the site of their new trial, and managed to pump multiple gunshots into his two handcuffed prisoners en route. (It was “self-defense,” he explained.) McCall was exonerated by a jury that included many of his cronies, and the good citizens of Lake County consistently re-elected him until 1972, when, after yet another black prisoner in his custody was beaten to death, the governor finally removed him from office. “Sometimes I get awfully tired of trying to save the white man’s soul,” King quotes Marshall as reflecting.

– Christopher Cerf
2013 finalist judge

Gilbert King visit to Tippecanoe High School in 2019

2013 Finalists

Fiction

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 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 Life of Objects by Susanna Moore (Knopf)

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 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 Round House by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins)

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.

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.

Nonfiction

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.

Burying the Typewriter by Carmen Bugan (Little, Brown)

In this debut memoir, a Romanian girl’s bucolic life is upended when her father is arrested for political dissidence.

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.

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.

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.

Pax Ethnica by Karl Meyer & 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.

2013 Finalist Judges

Fiction

Michelle Latiolais

is Professor of English at the University of California at Irvine. She is the author of the novel Even Now which received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the Commonwealth Club of California. Her second novel, A Proper Knowledge, was published in 2008 by Bellevue Literary Press. She has published writing in three anthologies, Absolute Disaster, Women On The Edge: Writing From Los Angeles and Woof! Writers on Dogs. Her stories and essays have appeared in Zyzzyva, The Antioch Review, Western Humanities Review, Santa Monica Review, Iowa Review and the Northwest ReviewWidow, a collection of stories, Involutions and essays, was released in January 2011 from Bellevue Literary Press. She has work forthcoming in Zyzzyva, Santa Monica Review and Juked.

Maureen McCoy

a longtime professor in the English Department and Program in Creative Writing at Cornell University, is the author of four novels: Walking After Midnight; Summertime; Divining Blood; and Junebug. She has also published numerous short stories and personal essays. Monologues for actors are featured in two anthologies. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, she is the recipient of writing and teaching awards including The James Michener Award. She was selected by Toni Morrison for a two-year position as the Albert Schweitzer Fellow in the Humanities at the State University of New York before beginning teaching at Cornell. She has had residencies at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers, the MacDowell Colony and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. One recent essay, “Vickie’s Pour House: A Soldier’s Peace” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award. She is working on a novel and a collection of essays.

Nonfiction

Christopher Cerf

is an author, editor, composer-lyricist, record and television producer, and co-founder and president of the educational media production company, Sirius Thinking, Ltd. Cerf has won three Emmys and two Grammys for his musical contributions to Sesame Street (for which he has written over 300 songs since the show’s debut in 1970); spent eight years as a senior editor at Random House, where he worked with such diverse authors as George Plimpton, Andy Warhol, Ray Bradbury, Abbie Hoffman, and Dr. Seuss; and was a charter contributing editor of National Lampoon. In 1993, Cerf renewed his ties to Random House when he assumed the role of Chairman of the Modern Library’s Board of Advisors.

Cerf’s newest book, co-authored by Henry Beard, is Encyclopedia Paranoica, an “alphabetized, intensively cross-referenced, guide to everyone and everything you should be afraid of or worried about.” It will be published by Simon & Schuster on November 20 – that is, if the world doesn’t end before that date.

Ken Bode

 has a professional career that is divided between academia and journalism, positions frequently overlapping. He taught at Michigan State, the State University of N.Y. at Binghamton, DePauw University and was Dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. In Journalism, he was Politics Editor of The New Republic, National Political Correspondent at NBC News, Senior Correspondent at CNN and Moderator of Washington Week in Review at PBS. He now resides in Yellow Springs.

2013 Awards Ceremony

The 2013 Awards Ceremony was held at 5:00 pm on Sunday, November 3rd, 2013, at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center at One West Second Street in Dayton, Ohio. Nick Clooney was the Master of Ceremonies.

See videos from the 2013 Award Ceremony!

Richard C. Holbrooke Award Wendell Berry

Fiction Award Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master’s Son

Nonfiction Award Andrew Solomon for Far From the Tree

Fiction Runner-up Ben Fountain for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Nonfiction Runner-up Gilbert King for Devil in the Grove

Additional Videos

Photos by Andy Snow (andysnow.com) ©2013.

2013 Master of Ceremonies

Nick Clooney

If you ask Nick Clooney what he does for a living, he will tell you he is a reporter. That is true, but hardly exhaustive.

As a television newsman, Nick has been reporter, anchor, managing editor and news director in Lexington, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Buffalo and Los Angeles.

As a columnist, Nick has, since 1989, contributed three columns a week to the Cincinnati and Kentucky Post dealing with subjects as varied as politics, travel, music and American history. Some of his articles and op-ed pieces have appeared in newspapers around the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the Salt lake Tribune.

As an author, he has published three books, including The Movies That Changed Us in 2002.

But the curiosity that drove Nick to a life as a reporter, also led him to explore other areas of interest. He hosted talk shows in Cincinnati and Columbus and music programs on radio. For five years he was a writer and daily on-air spokesman for American Movie Classic cable channel. Now, he is a writer, producer and host for American Life cable channel. His Moments that Changed Us program explores the intersection of a person and an important moment in our history. Guests have included John Glenn, Walter Cronkite, Diahann Carroll and Steve Wozniak.

Nick began working on radio full time when he was 17, in his hometown of Maysville, Kentucky.

In addition to his continuing broadcasting career, Nick has been a speaker, master of ceremonies or panelist of more than 3,000 events coast-to-coast.

Nick has accumulated a number of awards and honors over the years, including an Emmy for commentary and three Emmy nominations for his work on American Movie Classics. In December 1998, he received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Northern Kentucky University. In 2000, he received the President’s Medal from Thomas More College, and was inducted into the Cincinnati Journalism Hall of Fame. In 2001, Nick was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. In 2005, he was inducted into the Ohio Television Hall of Fame. In May 2007, Nick received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Kentucky and was the commencement speaker, a task he has undertaken at 31 other schools over the years.

Nick is married to Nina Warren of Perryville, Kentucky, who is a writer, inventor and TV host. Their oldest child, Ada, also a writer, is the mother of the World’s Only Grandchildren, Allison and Nick. The Clooney’s younger child, George, is an Oscar-winning actor, producer, writer and director in films.

In April of 2006, Nick and his son George went to the Sudan and Chad to report on the ongoing genocide in the region of Darfur. Since their return, both have traveled extensively as advocates for a peaceful solution to the crisis. George has spoken at the United Nations and has traveled to China and Egypt. He continues to hold fundraisers, while Nick has made more than 75 speeches at schools, churches, and town meetings. The pair has also made a documentary, Journey to Darfur, which has been shown internationally.

In the early 1970s, Nick and Nina decided to establish a permanent home from which they could travel according to the demands of their peripatetic profession. They moved to the beautiful river town of Augusta, Kentucky. Both of their children graduated from tiny Augusta High School. Eventually, other members of the family found their way to Augusta, including Nick’s famous sister, Rosemary Clooney. After her death in 2002, Rosemary’s home became a museum honoring her career.

Advancing years sometimes dictate a slow-down in professional activity. Someone forgot to tell Nick. He is currently the “distinguished journalist in residence” at the American University in Washington D.C. through the partnership between the school and the Newseum, a 250,000-square-foot museum in Washington dedicated to news. He’ll teach opinion writing this fall and a spring course based on his 2002 book, Movies That Changed Us.