Dayton Literary Peace Prize

2017 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke
Distinguished Achievement Award

Colm Toibin

“Our task as writers is to work on our sentences, pay close attention to the rhythm, texture and tone of prose. Mostly, our books will be read silently, as they are written silently. Our aim is to reach the reader’s imagination, have an effect on the nervous systems of other people. In ways that are both powerful and mysterious a book or a story can deepen the complexity of who we are in the world, how we feel, offering no easy resolutions, no simple images. Through fiction, we learn to see others. The page is not a mirror. It is blank when I start to write, but it contains a version of the world when I finish. It is there for others to be inspired by. Slowly then, a sentence or set of sentences that have their own integrity, their own sense of balance, their own striving towards worth, can become a sonorous metaphor for much else, including for how we might live in the world, how we might see others, what we might do. Good writing thus has elements and undercurrents that are moral as much as aesthetic. Good sentences offer us a way to imagine life in all its strangeness and ambiguity and possibility, alert us to the power of the imagination to transform and transcend our nature, offer us a blueprint not only for who we are but for who we might be, who we might become.”

— Colm Toibin                        

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Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin. On graduation, he lived in Spain, studying Catalan and Spanish, and witnessing the transformation of the country to democracy. His time in Spain inspired his first novel ‘The South’ (1990) and his ‘Homage to Barcelona’ (1990).

On returning to Dublin, he worked as a journalist, becoming editor of ‘Magill’, Ireland’s main current affairs magazine. Later, he traveled in South America and Africa, covering the trial of the generals in Buenos Aires in 1985. The atmosphere in Buenos Aires in the aftermath of the dictatorship is captured in his novel ‘The Story of the Night’ (1996). In 1986 he walked along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. His account of that journey was called ‘Bad Blood’ (1987).

Three of his novels have been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize – ‘The Blackwater Lightship’ (1999), ‘The Master’ (2004), ‘The Testament of Mary’ (2012). ‘The Master’ also won the LA Times Novel of the Year, and the stage version of ‘The Testament of Mary’ was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. His other novels are ‘Brooklyn’ (2009), ‘Nora Webster’ (2014) and ‘House of Names’ (2017). His essay collections are: ‘The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe’ (1994), ‘Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar’ (2002) and ‘New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and their Families’ (2012).

He has taught at Stanford, Princeton and the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, a contributing editor at the London Review of Books and Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

Read the full press release



Book Excerpt 


I started to think about that moment, that second when the final stone was put in place and the circle formed, what difference it would have made to the people who placed it there: something new, powerful, complete. That there was no artifice involved, that they had merely carried them there and made them into a circle gave the stones a greater spirit. I moved around touching them, looking at the land down below. Beltany must have come from Bealtaine, the Irish word for the month of May; I said that to James Bradley. “No, no” he answered. “It’s even older than that, not Bealtaine, but its roo, Baal Tine, the fire of Baal.” Baal was a Celtic god, Tine is the Irish for fire.

We walked down the hill, leaving the stones to their magic, away from the reminder that there was once a time in this place when there were no Catholics or Protestants; the dim past standing there on the crown of the hill, for once a history which could do us no harm, could not teach us, inspire us, remind us, beckon us, embitter us: history locked up in stone.


For over thirty years in journalism, short and long fiction, criticism, speeches, essays and lectures, Colm Toíbín has explored the power and significance of family—for good or ill—and extended readers’ understanding of “family” to include not just those familiar domestic groupings created by birth or by sexual and social affinities, but also larger, shifting and overlapping family groups, sustained or divided by tribal, national or religious, political, and civic identity. These families may be whole or broken, healthy or healing, fortunate or cursed, but they are always powerfully present, exerting their influence on family members, defining individuals by inclusion and exclusion. Begin by examining the construct family and the themes yield themselves: exile, estrangement, and reconciliation; the push and pull of home; and the close link between love and rage. The personal is a hallmark of Toíbín’s writing and his world view: how else can one grasp history, politics, or culture? One cannot be an Irish writer raised in the shadow of Vinegar Hill without being conscious of the burden of tribal and national culture and history, nor a gay man with a profoundly Catholic upbringing and be unaware of the many ways in which families may break and reassemble themselves or of the obligations conferred by shared lives and affinities. In his nonfiction, “family” may take the form of Irish men and women negotiating life along the borderlands during the uncertain years between the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, or present day European Catholics whose shared faith (or lack of faith) is shaped as much by locale and local history as by doctrine. His body of literary criticism focuses more narrowly on family dynamics: the vexed relationships of authors and their siblings and parents and lovers, or the need for kinships of spirit when consanguinity proves too vexed. Fiction, of course, is the art of the personal, and the arc of his novels and short stories frequently traces this breaking and reassembling among ordinary families living on the decaying southeast coast of Ireland or stretched across the Atlantic in diaspora. Literature also offers us universal touchstones for our personal experiences; thus in other works Toíbín shows us the same dynamics working out in the great, haunted, and tragic families of history and mythology. The wife and children of Agamemnon and the mother of God suffer exile and loss, are torn between love and anger, and long to be made whole as we do. Colm Toíbín asks his readers to contemplate “the deep sadness of exile” whether from mother or brother, from home or nation, from one’s truest self—and to understand how accidents of geography and family shape identity, or how quirks of circumstance can harden or soften hearts. He helps us understand the longings and complexity of intimates and strangers, even those whose actions we may deplore. His writings remind us of our shared humanity and offer the possibility of reconciliation or simply of understanding, which are the first steps to making peace.

Carol S. Loranger
Chair, Department of English
Language and Literatures Frederick A White
Distinguished Professor of Professional Service
Wright State University

2017 Fiction Winner

Patricia Engel - The Veins of the Ocean

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“Literature can show us what is best in mankind and cast an unforgiving light on the ways we fail ourselves and one another. That an award should recognize the power of the written word to foster human understanding and eradicate imposed and imagined borders in the world community is remarkably brave, and reminds us that as artists we are called through our work, above all things, to the pursuit of peace. I am deeply grateful and honored that my novel has been recognized in this way.”

— Patricia Engel                        


Patricia Engel’s most recent novel, The Veins of the Ocean, was published in May 2016 by Grove Press and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Electric Literature, and Entropy.

Vida, her debut, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, winner of the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana, a Florida Book Award, International Latino Book Award, and Independent Publisher Book Award, and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award, New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and Paterson Fiction Award. Additionally, Vida was long-listed for The Story Prize, named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Latina Magazine, and Los Angeles Weekly. Her novel, It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, was winner of the International Latino Book Award and an Elle Reader’s Prize, and recommended by the Los Angeles Times, Time Out New York, and Flavorwire.

Patricia’s books have been translated into many languages and her short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, A Public Space, Boston Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2017 and The Best American Mystery Stories 2014. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Catapult, and numerous anthologies. She has received awards including the Boston Review Fiction Prize, fellowships and residencies from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Key West Literary Seminar, Hedgebrook, Ucross, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and a 2014 fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Born to Colombian parents and raised in New Jersey, Patricia currently lives in Miami. She teaches creative writing at the University of Miami and is Literary Editor of the Miami Rail.


Reina Castillo, the Colombian-American heroine of Patricia Engel’s richly resonant novel, is born to a prison family: Her father is sentenced to life in prison and, in a recapitulation of his crime that itself bespeaks the hold of the old world, her brother ends up there, too. Reina’s young life is enmeshed with her brother’s life in particular; and what’s more, his imprisonment proves synecdochic. Even when it ends and she sets out to live a new life, Reina finds herself behind psychic bars. “I thought I could shake these shadows when I moved away,” she says, “skin my old life from this new one as swiftly and bloodlessly as the fisherman at the marina did when gutting our fish for dinner.” But her inheritance, replete with its ties of family and guilt and shame and loyalty, is not easily shucked off.

Can those ties be broken? And more importantly, can they be replaced? All too often, the immigrant’s journey is portrayed as a simple move from old to new, from dark to light, from imprisonment to liberation — a crossing of borders. In Engel’s perceptive portrayal, the journey forward involves immersion in the old world and the natural world; and psychic progress involves as much knitting as shedding. It involves partnership; it is not a journey accomplished alone. And, of course, it involves courage and serendipity. The Veins of the Ocean is a wise exploration, not of immigration as a political issue, but of immigration as a species of human change. It declines to flatten and simplify; it declines to sensationalize. Instead, it tells the story of one young woman groping her way, not toward Freedom capital F, but toward a private freedom that, even in the land of the free, cannot be granted, only earned.

— Gish Jen
2017 finalist judge


Book Excerpt

“’That’s why you need to make friends with the sea,’ he tells me, as we sit together on the beach behind my cottage one sunny morning.  ‘The sea is the origin of all life and the tomb of all death.  Before Obatalá claimed the land, oceans covered the earth.  So all of life has aquatic origin and we need to honor it.’

 ‘You think we were once fish?’

 ‘Only Olofi knows.’

He runs his hand through the sand at his side, grabs some into his palm, and lets it slip out through his fingers.

‘Babies breathe amniotic fluid until birth.  It’s a kind of seawater.  We grow into our lives on land and lose our connection to the water, but we are of the ocean.’”

2017 Fiction Runner-up

Yaa Gyasi - Homegoing

“Literature shows us the world as it truly is, but it also shows us the world as it could be—peaceful, empathetic, humane. It is literature that we so often turn to when we want to better understand each other, and I’m encouraged by the fact that people keep seeking this understanding. These days we are constantly confronted with our differences and we are urged to protect ourselves from “the other,” but one of the great powers of literature is not that it erases these difference, but rather that it highlights them in order to show us how complex we all are, how rich our world is because of this complexity. I am so honored to be recognized by the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Thank you.”

— Yaa Gyasi              

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Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn.


Book Excerpt

“What I know now, my son: Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home. I’m sorry you have suffered. I’m sorry for the way your suffering casts a shadow over your life, over the woman you have yet to marry, the children you have yet to have.”

Yaw looked at her surprised, but she simply smiled. “When someone does wrong, whether it is you or me, whether it is mother or father, whether it is the Gold Coast man or the white man, it is like a fisherman casting a net into the water. He keeps only the one or two fish that he needs to feed himself and puts the rest in the water, thinking that their lives will go back to normal. No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free. But still, Yaw, you have to let yourself be free.”


In Yaa Gyasi’s ambitious epic, generations speak to each other through dreams, through patterns of behavior, through metaphysical attachments to land and legacy that miraculously survive banishment and erasure committed against and by the people of this book. Beginning with a child born in the midst of a fire in what is now Ghana, Homegoing tracks a bloodline split by the violence of slavery and bigotry, from its beginnings in the internecine warfare fueled by the British alliance with the Fante nation against the Asanti’s. While one sister is married to a British soldier and slaver and taken to live in Cape Coast Castle, a half sister she’s never met, is kept in the dungeon below with hundreds of others pitiful captives before being shipped off to bondage in America.

Gyasi’s achievement is in her expansive vision, her lyrical language, and her ability to create a complex and troubled biography of a bloodline that has suffered an enormous psychic wound. As one would expect, the book is riddled with the terrible injustices wrought upon the peoples of Africa by the slave trade, Jim Crow and beyond, but Gyasi doesn’t settle for a one-note narrative, as she goes well beyond familiar tropes of victimhood. Instead, she explores both the complicity in the slave trade of some African nations as well as the small triumphs and generational reclamations of dignity. Spirits and lives are sometimes broken under crushing despair and discrimination, but not irrevocably, as the story is not one individual’s but an entire clan’s. From cotton field to coal mine, Baltimore to Harlem, from Cape Coast Castle to Kumasi, the journey of this rivened bloodline follows a labyrinthine path back to the shores of Africa where their odyssey began and where two descendants, still carrying the subconscious wounds of their forbears, complete the round-trip journey as helpmates determined to live hopeful lives of their own making.

— Robin Cecil Hemley
2017 finalist judge

2017 Nonfiction Winner

David Wood - What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars

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“News of this award awakened in me powerful memories of the time I spent in Bosnia reporting on the atrocities of that war and on the incredible strength and perseverance of the families who endured those terrible years. And later, as I accompanied U.S. peacekeeping troops into Bosnia, documenting how the Dayton Peace Agreement was gradually transforming a fragile cease-fire into a structure enabling Bosnians and Serbs and Croats to begin the hard work of recovering their common humanity. That effort goes on, in Bosnia and globally, and I am immensely proud and grateful to be a small part of the peace-building work that the Dayton Literary Peace Prize honors.”

— David Woods


David Wood, a veteran war reporter, is a staff correspondent for the Huffington Post, where he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting on severely wounded warriors. A birthright Quaker and raised as a pacifist, Wood has spent more than thirty years covering the U.S. military and conflicts around the world, most recently in extended deployments embedded with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In his book What Have We Done, David Wood writes beautifully and harrowingly about the consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With many moving stories about individuals who served in those conflicts, he brings modern warfare to life at a deeply personal level, and also discusses the consequences at a national level, in terms of the ethical fallout for the United States as a whole.

Wood has a keen moral conscience as well as an astute eye for detail and a great ability to tell a story. The individuals he portrays so vividly come to life in this book as three-dimensional human beings. Most importantly, he names what they struggle with most deeply as “moral injury.” An issue that is too rarely discussed, moral injury is one of the primary difficulties that returning veterans have to battle. Distinct from both physical injury and from psychological injury (i.e. PTSD), moral injury occurs when a person violates his or her own conscience and cannot recuperate easily afterward.

The author shows how our military and our society as a whole fail veterans by neglecting to assist in their struggle to heal from the moral injuries that inevitably result when we ask them to act in a way that would be seen as abhorrent were it to take place outside of the theater of war. Wood movingly depicts how men and women sent to the two conflicts in the Middle East have come home crippled by guilt and how we have failed to assist them in healing. Readers will come away thinking about war and returning home from war with an entirely new perspective.

– Helen Thorpe and Alan Taylor
2017 finalist judges


Book Excerpt

“Each of us, of course, has experienced at least a twinge of moral regret and sometimes deeper and lasting moral injury. History is marked by immense human calamities and periods of unspeakable moral violation. Yet the moral jeopardy of war, especially in the wars the United States began and fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, is different. These wars demanded the intense and prolonged participation of a tiny fraction of the nation’s youth in sustained campaigns built on the intentional violation of the ancient sanctions against killing. Those who returned did so without the healing rituals of cleansing and forgiveness practiced by past generations. Threads of anger and betrayal run through their stories: violations of their sense of ‘what’s right’ by the Afghan and Iraqi civilians who turned violently against them, by an American public that turned its back on the war, and by the lack of clear victories in Iraq and Afghanistan that might have justified their sacrifices.”

David Wood Panel Discussion at Fairmont High School in 2019

David Wood, a veteran war reporter, is a staff correspondent for the Huffington Post, where he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting on severely wounded warriors. A birthright Quaker and raised as a pacifist, Wood has spent more than thirty years covering the U.S. military and conflicts around the world, most recently in extended deployments embedded with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2017 Nonfiction Runner-up

Ben Rawlence - City of Thorns

“Empathy is the beginning of peace between people. Stories that can show us the world through eyes not our own are the way that we learn empathy. In my view, all literature serves this goal of deepening our shared humanity. To be recognized by a prize for spreading peace is the highest honour a book can achieve.”

— Ben Rawlence             

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Ben Rawlence is a former researcher for Human Rights Watch in the horn of Africa. He is the author of Radio Congo and has written for a wide range of publications, including The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and Prospect. He lives in Wales with his family.


Book Excerpt

I know what I am doing: wishful thinking, crazy thinking. I know that maybe nothing would be different if I had stayed, that Patrick might have kept living his life and I mine. And I know it sounds as if I think I could have saved him, as if I think I’m so important in his life. It’s not like that.

Or maybe it is, in the sense that the alternative, the rational thought, would be to say to myself, You can’t do that much, you’re not that important, there are so many forces in a person’s life, good and bad, who do you think you are. That’s what I said to make myself feel better after I left the Delta, and sometimes I still say it. But then what is a human for? A person must matter to another, it must mean something for two people to have passed time together, to have put work into one another and into becoming more fully themselves. So even if I am wrong, if my dreaming is wrong, the alternative, to not dream at all, seems wrong, too.


City of Thorns is a magnificent and disturbing depiction of life inside Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. Author Ben Rawlence, a former researcher for Human Rights Watch, has the privilege of unusual access to this sprawling refugee camp, which is normally closed to journalists. He uses it as a force for good by bringing the reader along with him. Through skilled storytelling, Rawlence shows the rest the world what people experience when they live through war or famine and flee their own country, only to wind up in a situation that itself constitutes a kind of hell on earth.

Rawlence does a superb job bringing into close focus the lives of nine compelling individuals who live in Dadaab, depicting through their individual sagas what it means to be a refugee at this moment. He also illustrates the rampant corruption and danger that besets these refugees even inside the boundaries of the camp that is supposed to provide them with safe haven. And he shows how refugee camps themselves can sometimes lead to further radicalization and destabilization, when mismanaged or improperly funded.

The author calls us all to task for creating such a situation in which to warehouse the vulnerable. It is a life unimaginable to the inhabitants of most developed countries, and by sharing these stories Rawlence succeeds in personalizing one of the most important challenges of our time, casting a powerful spotlight on the dilemma of how best to answer the refugee crisis.

– Helen Thorpe and Alan Taylor
2017 finalist judges

2017 Finalists


Barkskins by Annie Proulx (Scribner)

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author Annie Proulx’s most ambitious and epic work ever, a dazzling feat of imagination and research ten years in the writing—a violent, bloody, magnificently dramatic novel about the forming of the new world over 200 years ago.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Alfred A. Knopf)

A riveting, kaleidoscopic debut novel: a story of race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America.

Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler (Grove Atlantic)

In Perfume River, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler traces the legacy of the Vietnam War through the dramatic portrait of a single North Florida family struggling to confront the past. It is a profound and poignant book that echoes the American experience and the lives of so many affected by war.

The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

The Veins of the Ocean  by Patricia Engel (Grove Press)

From award-winning author, Patricia Engel, The Veins of the Ocean follows the riveting story of one young woman’s devotion to her brother on death row and the journey she takes toward a freer future. Set against along the vibrant coasts of Miami, Havana, and Cartagena, this novel explores the beauty of the natural world and the solace it brings to even the most fractured lives.


City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence (Picador)

In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, sketching the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped. Lucid, vivid, and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Harper Collins)

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.

The Hundred Year Walk by Dawn Mackeen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In The Hundred-Year Walk Dawn MacKeen alternates between her grandfather Stepan’s courageous account of surviving the Armenian genocide of 1915, drawn from his long-lost journals, and her own story as she attempts to retrace his steps, setting out alone to Turkey and Syria, shadowing her resourceful, resilient grandfather across a landscape still rife with tension. Their shared story is a testament to family, to home, and to the power of the human spirit to transcend the barriers of religion, ethnicity, and even time itself.

The Song Poet by Kuo Kalia (Metropolitan Books)

Written with the exquisite beauty for which Kao Kalia Yang is renowned, The Song Poet recounts the life of her father Bee Yang, a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by American’s Secret War. Above all, it is a love story — of a daughter for her father, a father for his children, a people for their land, their traditions, and all that they have lost.

What Have We Done by David Wood (Little Brown and Company)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Wood offers a groundbreaking examination of a pervasive yet poorly-understood experience among our soldiers: moral injury, the violation of our fundamental values of right and wrong that so often occurs in the impossible moral dilemmas of modern conflict.

While the City Slept by Eli Sanders (Viking)

A Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter’s gripping account of one young man’s path to murder—and a wake-up call for mental health care in America.

2017 Finalist Judges


   Robin Hemley   

is the author of twelve books of nonfiction and fiction, and has won numerous awards for his writing, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes in both fiction and nonfiction, The Independent Press Book Award, an Editors Choice Award from The American Library Association, State Arts Council grants from Washington, North Carolina, and Illinois, The Ohioana Library Association Award, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, The MacDowell Colony, and many others. His work has been published in the U.S. Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, the Philippines, Singapore, and elsewhere.

A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, he returned to Iowa to direct the Nonfiction Writing Program for nine years before moving to Singapore to direct the writing program at Yale-NUS College and also serve as Writer-in-Residence there. He is also a Visiting Professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia and Professor Emeritus at The University of Iowa.

Gish Jen

is the author of six previous books, has published short work in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and dozens of other periodicals and anthologies. Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories four times, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century. Nominated for a National Book Critics’ Circle Award, her work was featured in a PBS American Masters’ special on the American novel, and is widely taught.

Jen is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been awarded a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study fellowship, and numerous other awards. An American Academy of Arts and Letters jury comprised of John Updike, Cynthia Ozick, Don DeLillo, and Joyce Carol Oates granted her a five-year Mildred and Harold Strauss Living award; Jen delivered the William E. Massey, Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University in 2012. Her most recent book is The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap.


    Alan Taylor     

is an award-winning author and teacher. He taught in the history department at Boston University from 1987 to 1994. Since 1994, he has been a professor at the University of California at Davis. In 2002 he won the University of California at Davis Award for Teaching and Scholarly Achievement and the Phi Beta Kappa, Northern California Association, Teaching Excellence Award.

Taylor has published eight books. William Cooper’s Town won the Pulitzer Prize for American history in addition to the Bancroft and Beveridge prizes. The Internal Enemy won the Pulitzer Prize for American history and the Merle Curti Prize for Social History (OAH). American Colonies won the 2001 Gold Medal for Non-Fiction from the Commonwealth Club of California. The Divided Ground won the 2007 Society for Historians of the Early Republic book prize and the 2004-7 Society of the Cincinnati triennial book prize. The Civil War of 1812 won the Empire State History Prize and was a finalist for the George Washington Prize.

   Helen Thorpe  

is an award-winning journalist who lives in Denver, Colorado. Her first book, Just Like Us: The True Story Of Four Mexican Girls Coming Of Age In America, was published in 2009. It won the Colorado Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.

Her second book, Soldier Girls: The Battles Of Three Women At Home And At War, was published in 2014. TIME named it the number one nonfiction book of the year, and The New York Times said: “Through minute, almost claustrophobic, detail — using military and medical records, as well as therapists’ notes and personal correspondence — Thorpe achieves a staggering intimacy with her subjects.”

Her forthcoming book, The Newcomers, is about refugee resettlement. It celebrates the work of a high school English Language Acquisition teacher named Eddie Williams, whose classroom mirrors the global refugee crisis. The book is due out November 2017.

2017 Awards Ceremony

The 2016 Awards Ceremony was held at 5:00 pm on Sunday, November 5th, 2017, at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center at One West Second Street in Dayton, Ohio. Gilbert King was the Master of Ceremonies.

See videos from the 2017 Award Ceremony!

Richard C. Holbrooke Award Colm Toibin

Fiction Award Patricia Engel for The Veins of the Ocean

Nonfiction Award David Woods for What Have We Done

Fiction Runner-up Yaa Gyasi for Homegoing

Nonfiction Runner-up Ben Rawlence for City of Thorns

Additional Videos

Entire Award Ceremony, November 5, 2017

2017 Author’s Reception, November 5, 2017

Conversations with the Authors, November 5, 2017

Photos by Andy Snow ( ©2017.

2017 Master of Ceremonies

Gilbert King

Gilbert King is the author of Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boy, and the Dawn of a New Americas, which was the 2013 runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction. When informed of his award King wrote: “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?”

Devil in the Grove was also 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.”

His latest book, Beneath a Ruthless Sun, was published by Riverhead Books in April, 2018. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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.