Letters of Support for the

2019 Irma Lazarus Award


The Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation is delighted to announce that DLPP is the recipient of the prestigious Irma Lazarus Award, considered to be the highest of the Ohio Governor’s Awards for the Arts. The Irma Lazarus Award goes to “individuals or organizations who have helped shape public support for the arts through their work as advocates and have brought national and international recognition to Ohio through sustained dedication to artistic excellence.”

We would like to thank Ron Rollins, Content Director of Community Engagement for the Cox Media Group, Ohio, and a member of our Advisory Council, for nominating us. We would also like to thank, Governor Robert Taft, Chair of the DLPP Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award; Carol Loranger, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Wright State University and member of our Advisory Council; Karima Bennoune, professor of international law at the University of California-Davis School of Law and 2014 DLPP Nonfiction Winner for Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here; Gilbert King, 2013 DLPP Nonfiction Runner-up for Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America, and member of the DLPP Honorary Advisory Board; and Katherine Vaz and Christopher Cerf, writers, and former judges for the DLPP and members of our DLPP Honorary Advisory Board for their letters of support.

We have included their letters below where you can read their opinions of the role DLPP plays as the proponent for advancing peace through literature. Click on their names or simply scroll down the page to read their letters.

  • Bob Taft, Distinguished Research Associate, University of Dayton, Governor of Ohio, 1999-2007
  • Carol S. Loranger, Associate Dean, Wright State University
  • Gilbert King, Author, 2013 DLPP Runner-up for Nonfiction for The Devil in the Grove
  • Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, United Nations Special Rapporteur
  • Katherine Vaz, Author & Briggs-Copeland Fellow in Fiction (2003-09, Harvard)

The Foundation, Board, Advisory Council and staff of the DLPP are honored and will continue to live up to the spirit of the award. We congratulate our fellow recipients and look forward to celebrating with them in Columbus on May 15. Should you be interested in joining in the celebration, reservations will open in March and will be available through Ohio Citizens for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council’s event partner. Individual tickets run $50.00 and a table of 10 is available for $1,000. We will put out an alert when tickets go on sale with details as to how to order them.

Thank you for your interest in the DLPP.

Sharon Rab
Founder and Chair

Bob Taft, Distinguished Research Associate, University of Dayton, Governor of Ohio, 1999-2007

I would like to enthusiastically support the nomination of The Dayton Literary Peace Prize to receive The Irma Lazarus Award.

I have had the opportunity to be involved in the Peace Prize during the last eight years in my capacity as Co-Chair of the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Sharon Rab of Dayton and others had the vision of establishing the Dayton Literary Peace Prize to promote both excellent literature and peace in the world, building on the successful Dayton Peace Accords of 1995. During the past 12 years it has won widespread academic and community support and become a premier artistic showcase which has attracted writers of the highest literary quality to Dayton, Ohio year after year, bringing national and international recognition to both the city and the state.

The winners of the Holbrooke Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award have included Louise Erdrich, Wendell Berry, Tim O’Brien, Barbara Kingsolver, Geraldine Brooks, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Taylor Branch, Elie Wiesel, Studs Terkel, Colm Toibin and this year, John Irving. Many other prominent and up and coming writers have been recognized for artistic excellence and contributions to peace for their works of fiction and non-fiction. Each winner has been present in Dayton to speak at the Annual Dinner and Awards Presentation and to share their wisdom and experience at events open to schools, universities and the broader community.

The annual Peace Prize awards dinner is a premier occasion, taking place on the stage of the Schuster Theater in downtown Dayton. This dinner is sold out every year and attracts very significant financial and personal support from the greater Dayton community. The speaking events in which the authors engage every year are also well attended and help build appreciation for literature and the importance of working for peace.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize has placed a national and international literary spotlight on the State of Ohio in a way that would not have been imagined when it was created. I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for the Irma Lazarus Award.


Bob Taft
Bob Taft
Distinguished Research Associate
University of Dayton
Governor of Ohio, 1999-2007


Carol S. Loranger, Associate Dean, Wright State University

I offer my wholehearted support for the nomination of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for The Irma Lazarus Award of the Ohio Arts Council. The DLPP is one of Ohio’s treasures. Originating in the city that was home to the 1995 Dayton Accords and inspired by them to honor the power of the written word to promote peace, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize has had a profound cultural impact on the region and has spread its influence across the globe.

I serve on The Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award committee and co-chair the prize’s Education and Outreach Committee. As an educator for the past twenty-four years in Ohio higher education, I can attest to the Prize’s transformative impact. Each year the DLPP brings luminaries to Dayton for the gala weekend of the award—primarily authors, but also national and international statesmen, journalists, and peace or social justice activists. These prominent figures fan out before and after the award weekend, visiting area schools, libraries, colleges, and universities, meeting with students and the general public in both formal and informal settings to talk about literature, the world of ideas, peace, world affairs and international culture. For many students and members of the public, this is their first experience meeting an internationally or nationally renowned figure, or their first experience reading a book that stretches them intellectually or stimulates their curiosity about the world. DLPP honorees and special guests are diverse, which means that often students and community members have the opportunity to interact with figures who look or worship or otherwise experience the world as they do. For many, the experience leads to the discovery of lifelong interests; for all, to the realization that world takes us seriously because we value peace and the literary arts.

Following a visit to their campus by Benjamin Skinner, winner of the 2009 nonfiction award for A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern Day Slavery, students at Kettering-Fairmont High School formed one of the first high school interest groups in the region to raise awareness about human trafficking. Seven years later, Kettering-Fairmont is still actively involved in anti-human trafficking education and programming, along with (now) eleven other schools in the area. At Sinclair Community College, students can participate in reading groups devoted to the DLPP-honored books; a fund makes these hardcover and trade paperbacks freely available to SCC students. University of Dayton, Central State University, and my own Wright State University; Edison and Clark State Community Colleges; the private colleges Wittenberg, Earlham, Antioch, and Cedarville; Dayton Public Schools, Kettering City Schools and the Miami Valley School—to name just a few—develop special programming and student enrichment opportunities related to the award every fall.

Wright State University and Dayton Metro Library partnered with the DLPP to host Community Conversations in the downtown library: free events bringing university faculty and community leader/readers together for informal conversations about prize-winning books. Three Conversations happened this fall; three are planned for each fall going forward as the response was overwhelmingly positive. The conversations are videotaped and available for viewing on the DLPP website. University faculty relished sharing their insights and expertise with general audiences, and community leader/readers included area doctors, immigrants, a city commissioner, and authors. Without the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, bringing national and international writers of this stature to our campuses, schools and libraries would cost tens of thousands of dollars per individual visit—next to impossible for all but the best endowed institutions; it simply would not happen for those institutions whose students most need enhanced access to the world. But thanks to the DLPP, in just a few days, as they have every fall since 2006, schools and campuses across the region will welcome a writer or other dignitary for panel discussions, workshops, lectures, or readings—while we university faculty find ourselves talking with and collaborating with each other across institutional divides to produce this programming. The above is just a snapshot of one small piece of the DLPP’s impact on culture and education.

Carol S. Loranger
Carol S. Loranger
Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts
Frederick A. White Distinguished Professor
    of Professional Service
Wright State University


Gilbert King, Author, 2013 DLPP Runner-up for Nonfiction for The Devil in the Grove

October 10, 2018

The Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio To Whom It May Concern:

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize has been in existence for thirteen years now, and having been a recipient of a prize (runner-up, non-fiction, 2013) and attended the ceremonial weekend for the past five years, I wanted to emphasize the extraordinary prestige of this award. Rattling off a list of previous winners that include recipients of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Man Booker Prize simply wouldn't do it justice. The names of those who have come to Dayton each year read like a who’s who of world literature, including Louise Erdrich, Marilynne Robinson, Junot Diaz, Dave Eggers, Taylor Branch, and Geraldine Brooks, to name but a few.

Any writer who has ever been awarded a Dayton Literary Peace Prize Award and who has attended the ceremonies will readily affirm that this award is not just another literary award. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is a truly special achievement, and writers who have had their work acknowledged and validated in Dayton genuinely come away from the experience with a newly inspired commitment toward continuing their work of writing about the promotion of peace and social justice.

In my travels around the world, I have noticed that the awareness of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is growing substantially. I firmly believe that the Prize would, were it held in New York instead of Ohio each year, most likely be widely known as the prestigious award that it is. But in holding the award ceremony in Dayton, in honor of the city where the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in 1995, the award maintains the gravitas and the purity that it truly deserves. I will never forget hearing the words of author Tim O'Brien, in tears, describing how the Dayton Literary Peace Prize means more to him than any award he's ever received, because, as he put it, he's not a war writer, but a writer of peace.

I hope this letter conveys some sense of the high esteem in which we writers hold the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and serves a testament to the award’s commitment and dedication to artistic excellence.

Yours sincerely,

Gilbert King
Gilbert King
81 Washington St. #2B
Brooklyn NY 11201


Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, United Nations Special Rapporteur

Dear Sir or Madam:

It is an honor to write this letter in support of the nomination of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize (DLPP) for the Irma Lazarus Award. I won the DLPP for Nonfiction in 2014 for my book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism, a collection of stories of people of Muslim heritage around the world – from Afghanistan to Mali to Minneapolis - working against terrorism and extremism. No award for my book could have meant more to me and to those I interviewed in the course of my research, so Dayton Literary Peace Prize is featured on the front cover of the paperback edition my book which has been sold and distributed from the Sydney Writers Festival in Australia to the TEDx conference in Exeter, United Kingdom, to the International Salon of Books in Algiers.

The most rewarding moments of the award were contacting the families of the victims of fundamentalist atrocities in my book to share the news that their loved ones’ heroism was being honored internationally. Anissa Zouani, the sister of Amel Zenoune Zouani, a law student who was killed by jihadists in 1997 for refusing to give up her studies and about whom I wrote, wrote back the same night from Algiers, inspired by the prize: “We do not have the right to give up, because the terrorists continue to assassinate, decapitate, threaten. We must fight to build a better world based on liberty, modernity, democracy, the respect for human life and justice.” She and her family were deeply touched that the telling of Amel’s story had won such a prize.

A young Tunisian lawyer who helped with my research wrote back that night as well: “I have tears in my eyes, I am so happy and proud. Justice is rendered to those who have died, and whose deaths were kept in shadow. We must not despair. We must continue, now more than ever…. There is an alternative, there is hope. And this prize is the proof.” I am filled with gratitude to the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for offering this ray of hope, for finding this way to bring Americans and Muslims together in the struggle for freedom, and to re-commit to continuing that struggle.

Because of the DLPP, my book gained national press coverage and an elevated global profile, in the literary community and beyond. I spoke about my work to hundreds of people in the Dayton area during my three visits. Most recently, I addressed an assembly of hundreds of Dayton-area high school students who had read my book. I will never forget being surrounded by a group of students after the assembly who wanted to learn how they, as young Ohioans, could make a difference in bringing together our fractured world. They gave me hope. Elsewhere, I now tell the story of my meeting with these worldly Ohio youth, youth who are determined to engage with the international community and to combat prejudice.

I came away from Ohio filled with admiration for the rich cultural life of the Dayton area, and of the commitment to international understanding by people in Dayton – a city which many across the Muslim world now know thanks to my book’s having won this prize. I was also given a boost in continuing my work to support Muslim struggles against extremism, work which sadly has never been as relevant as it is today in the wake of the recent ghastly attacks in Somalia and Kabul.

I salute the organizers of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for their global vision, their commitment to the promotion of literature and peace - in the Midwest and around the world, their work as global cultural ambassadors for Ohio, their support for writers and for the culture of writing which is under threat in our digital age, and for their indefatigable efforts to promote and organize events affiliated with the DLPP which bring together Ohioans and writers from around the world and create lasting cultural bonds. The DLPP is a tremendously deserving recipient of the prestigious Irma Lazarus Award as its organizers are esteemed cultural ambassadors of Ohio. As the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, I salute their work to promote global cultural fellowship, and to enhance the cultural rights and freedom of artistic expression.

Karima Bennoune
Karima Bennoune
Professor of Law
United Nations Special Rapporteur


Katherine Vaz, Author & Briggs-Copeland Fellow in Fiction (2003-09, Harvard)

To the Committee for the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio:

My husband, Christopher Cerf, and I are thrilled to give the Dayton Literary Peace Prize organization our very highest recommendation for one of your awards. We’ve served as Fiction and Non-Fiction judges in the past, but we return each year—Christopher runs an Authors Panel prior to the gala—because the sense of community is widely known as one of the most warm, innovative, and lasting on the national literary scene. Authors vie for return invitations even after their year of winning an award; everyone wants to revisit Dayton’s hospitality and the enriching connections fostered there among artists.

The Dayton Prize has deliberately conceived of itself as a proudly Ohioan institution, uniting contemporary literary excellence with a reminder of the Dayton Agreement’s role in ending the Bosnian War, but it boasts an international assembly of writers and thinkers, many of whom have won other renowned awards, from the Pulitzer to the Man Booker Prize. Past awardees include Marlon James, Junot Diaz, Gilbert King, Anthony Doerr, Adam Johnson, Andrew Solomon, Adam Hochschild, and Ha Jin; Lifetime Achievement honorees include Studs Terkel, Wendell Berry, Louise Erdrich, Marilynne Robinson, Colm Toíbín, Elie Wiesel, and Gloria Steinem.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize rewards top prose achievements that also explore war and peace via many interpretations and mutations. For instance, Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree is a magisterial work exploring how acceptance of “difference” starts in the home, while Karima Bennoune’s writing—and life efforts—raise awareness of Muslims combating fundamentalism.

The Prize has further developed far-reaching programs that create bridges into the Ohio community, with an average of forty events before and after each annual gala. A Community Conversation program has started at the Dayton Metro Library, while the Authors Series division of the Prize branches into local schools and colleges. The sheer number of young students inspired by the stellar cast of award winners doubles the worthiness of this organization, but chief among the virtues of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is how humane it is…writers are honored for their prose in accord with the beautiful belief that books can create peace and understanding.

The father of my husband, Christopher, is Bennett Cerf, who founded Random House, and Christopher has therefore spent a lifetime associated with publishing and writing. He has commented that the Dayton Literary Peace Prize events distinguish themselves as among the strongest, most far-reaching, and most joyful of any he’s known in the arts.

When the annual award ceremony culminates with the moving spiritual “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” there’s a sense that the Literary Peace Prize has brought us to our better selves. With this lingering reminder that we are all world citizens responsible for nurturing peace, it’s hard to imagine any organization doing more to make literature itself into a form of love.


Katherine Vaz
Katherine Vaz
Author & Briggs-Copeland Fellow in Fiction (2003-09, Harvard)

& endorsed by Christopher Cerf, Emmy- and Grammy-winning
TV producer, Sesame Street composer, and author


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