Dayton Literary Peace Prize

2020 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke
Distinguished Achievement Award

Margaret Atwood

What does writing have to do with peace?  Writing as the placing of words on surfaces – clay, stone, papyrus, vellum, paper – not much. Early writing was used to record inventories and to praise rulers, but not to encourage peace.

But fiction writing is different. If the fiction presents its characters in the round – what they think, what they feel, who they love and fear – it’s impossible not to realize that those being read about are as human as those doing the reading. And if the characters are from other places or other cultures, it becomes less and less possible to dismiss such people as not like us and therefore not our fellow mortals.

Writers are limited in their range – in what they are able to write about –whereas readers are not. Readers can read across the whole sweep of human experience – as far back in the past as they can see, as far afield as they can reach, as far into the future as it is possible to imagine. The closer we are to a person, the psychiatrists tell us, the harder it is to actually murder them. Perhaps that is the way in which reading is conducive to peace: it brings us closer together. If I feel I know you, understand you, and like you, why would I wish to make war on you?

That, at any rate, is our hope. We could certainly use a little hope, right about now.”

— Margaret Atwood                        

DLPP 2020 Holbrooke Margaret Atwood


MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in more than forty-five countries, is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. Dearly, her first collection of poetry in over a decade, will be published in November 2020.  Her latest novel, The Testaments, is a co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.  It is the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, now an award-winning TV series. Her other works of fiction include Cat’s Eye, finalist for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; The MaddAddam Trilogy; and Hag-Seed. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Franz Kafka International Literary Prize, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award. She lives in Toronto.

Read the full press release


It is not often that a writer achieves both widespread critical respect and popular success while tackling the most pressing social justice and ecological issues of her or his time. Rarer still is the writer who can depict our near futures so uncannily, predicting every wrong step we will take to get there.  Rarest of all is the writer who can do all that with a light touch, in a style both erudite and accessible, ethical and satirical, humane and humorous. Over a career that spans more than 50 years, Margaret Atwood has been that rarest of writers.

A prolific writer, Atwood is the author of seventeen published novels, ten collections of short fiction, twenty collections of poetry, seven children’s books, and ten works of nonfiction, literary or cultural criticism and has edited several anthologies of Canadian fiction. From The Handmaids Tale (1985) on, her novels have been nominated or shortlisted for multiple international awards for fiction, science fiction, or fantasy. She has won the Booker Prize twice—for The Blind Assassin in 2000 and for her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, in 2019. The Handmaid’s Tale, perhaps her best-known work of fiction, was shortlisted the Booker while garnering the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction Literature and Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction.

The sheer number and diversity of these honors is testament to the diversity of genres and modes she confidently deploys, mixes, juggles, and inverts. What is the gothic, after all, but the underside of domestic realism? What are speculative fictions like two Gilead novels and the three Maddaddam novels, after all, but detection tales of crimes against humanity or the environment played out on a massive social scale? Atwood is a feminist first and foremost, making women’s lives and experiences under patriarchy central to her work. Feminism shapes her exploration of all pressing issues, from civil rights and gender equality to environmentalism, sustainability, education, the lasting impact of colonialism and casualties of empire, criminal justice and incarceration, or consumer capitalism.

This is serious stuff, and Atwood is serious about educating her readers, both showing us our complicity and reintroducing us to our better angels. If serious writers have the duty to bear witness, warn, admonish, and instruct, they also have the obligation to entertain us, to draw us in, to make the experience worth the candle. Never didactic, always good humored and generous, Atwood does just that. With rich world-building and unexpected characterizations and inventive plots, she invites us to look behind and beyond our privilege and to be made uncomfortable by what we see.

“If writing novels—and reading them—have any redeeming social value,” Atwood wrote, long before there was a Dayton Literary Peace Prize, “it’s probably that they force you to imagine what it’s like to be somebody else. Which, increasingly, is something we all need to know.”  It is for her outstanding lifetime literary achievement in fostering our understanding of others and of ourselves that we honor her.

Carol S. Loranger
Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts
Wright State University

2020 Fiction Winner

Alice Hoffman - The World That We Knew

It is a great honor to be selected as the winner of the Dayton Peace Prize for my novel The World That We Knew, a book that explores what it means to be human in an inhuman time. Literature’s greatest gift is that it allows readers, and writers, to imagine ourselves living other lives, as other souls, in situations that challenge who we are and allow us to think about living a moral life. In writing about the Holocaust, especially now, at a time two thirds of millennials queried could not identify Auschwitz and 22 per cent had not heard of the Holocaust, this novel may be the most important work of my career. I want my readers to experience what it feels like is to be abandoned, ostracized, tortured, and murdered, as the result of being consider an outsider, just as I want them to feel what it is like to be loyal, to trust, to fight for justice, to love someone. It was my great privilege to meet with child survivors, now in their eighties and nineties, in this country and in France, and I was awed by their courage and humanity. Writing a novel that originated in their world was one of the great experiences of my life, one I will always be grateful for.

— Alice Hoffman                        


Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including Magic LessonsThe World That We KnewPractical Magic, The Rules of Magic, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on EarthThe Red GardenThe DovekeepersThe Museum of Extraordinary ThingsThe Marriage of Opposites, and Faithful. She lives near Boston.


Alice Hoffman’s novel is a dark, fierce fairy-tale about a girl, a golem, and the power of love. Nazi-occupied Europe bred any number of monsters, but also heroes and good witches and ordinary people battling extraordinary evil. In the forests and villages of la France profonde, farmers and doctors and old ladies hide Jews and help the Resistance, gumming up Hitler’s death machine, prepared to sacrifice themselves in the service of human decency. Hoffman does not shrink from describing the violence, the sheer viciousness, of the Nazis, but her austerely lyrical prose ensures she never milks the horror for effect. She writes of the killing of innocents with a deceptive calm. Skip a couple of sentences and you might miss it. Hoffman treats the most terrible incidents the way Eudora Welty and the Brothers Grimm, do, depicting rape and murder in almost matter-of-fact terms, as if reporting the passing of the seasons or the rising of the sun. Yet this plain presentation heightens the horror; the straightforwardness of Hoffman’s language is like a bright light illuminating torn and bloody flesh.

Hoffman’s novels often deploy a kind of magic realism in the face of trauma, the numinous slipping delicate as a cat into the lives of people experiencing unimaginable cruelty. It’s a strategy she’s deployed before, in novels such as The Museum of Extraordinary Things and Blackbird House, exquisitely and unobtrusively threaded into the fabric of her characters’ lives. You’re somehow not surprised that the dark-clad Angel of Death can be found lurking amid the trees or that a young woman made of mud can converse with a heron. At a time when our world is again struggling with hatred of those with a different faith, a different skin color, a different understanding of what “patriotism” means, this beautiful, pitiless book forces us to confront just how easy it can be to deny people their humanity in the name of protecting our own. Hoffman shows that the atrocities we visit on one other can be made to sound perfectly rational: “necessary to national security” or “guarding” us from that terrifying Other, that threat lurking just outside the gates. As Hoffman puts it: “That was how evil spoke. It made its own corrupt sense; it swore that the good were evil, and that the evil had come to save mankind. It brought up ancient fears and scattered them on the street like pearls.”

— Diane Roberts
2020 finalist judge


Book Excerpt

This is what it was to be human, to be at the will of fate. This is what it felt like to lose a child you loved who had loved you in return. She was awake and brought to life. Being human came to her unbidden, it took hold of her, and changed her. She was helpless against time, the owner of a fragile heart. She felt her pulse and the human blood in her veins. This is what love did. It was a miracle and a sacrifice.

2020 Fiction Runner-up

Christy Lefteri - The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Empathy is the beginning of peace. It is the seed from which peace grows. When we can say – I feel your pain, I might not know you but I will never add to your pain, –  the possibility of peace comes into existence. Without empathy, peace is impossible; it is drowned in conflict, ideologies, prejudice, hatred, apathy. Without empathy, peace is dead. Powerful stories can cut through prejudices and bring us into the heart and mind of the other. Reading and hearing stories can help us to imagine lives that might otherwise be unimaginable. Stories can unite the self with the other, it can blur the lines and boundaries we make and force upon the world. A story can challenge our reactions to the thousands of images in the media, the streams of dehumanised people. It can awaken our emotions, make us focus on an individual so that they are no longer a face in a crowd. It can help us to imagine the feelings of fear and loss, devastation and trauma, love and hope and all the other emotions in between. A story can melt our hearts and our prejudices. If we can feel the pain of others and walk in their shoes, that’s a powerful starting place and my hope was that The Beekeeper of Aleppo would be able to achieve that. 

Empathy can move us to act when possible. It can help us to be mindful, and to take a step back, to give another space and the right to live happily and safely. Empathy is the starting point of peace and peace is a complex puzzle that needs to extend to the entire world and the entirety of living beings upon this world. So, when we can say I promise never to add to your pain and I will look after that promise as I look after my own life – then peace will blossom, one flower at a time.

— Christy Lefteri              


Brought up in London, Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees. She holds a PhD in creative writing from Brunel University where she is now a lecturer. Her previous novel, the international bestseller The Beekeeper of Aleppo was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a UNICEF-supported refugee center. She is also the author of A Watermelon, a Fish and a Bible, which was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.


We’ve never had access to so much knowledge about the world, all the upheavals and struggles happening somewhere far away. But the torrent of information often overwhelms our capacity to pause and seek out connections. Nowadays, it’s become easier to focus on the regime, the visible instruments of ideology and repression, rather than the everyday experiences of those simply trying to survive. Christy Lefteri’s The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a book of great ambition and haunting subtlety. It tells the story of Nuri, a beekeeper who lives with his wife, Atra, and son, Sami, in the hills of Aleppo, where he raises bees alongside his cousin, Mustafa. But civil war destroys the Syrian city. The violence claims Sami’s life and Atra’s eyesight. Without even the chance to properly mourn their son, Nuri and Atra flee, embarking on a journey through Europe. They dream of a reunion with Mustafa, who fled Aleppo before them, and who has started an apiary in Yorkshire, where he teaches beekeeping to local refugees.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is full of extremes. There is the global scale of state violence and the refugee crisis that ensues; there are the intimate, closely guarded memories, feelings, and tastes that keep Nuri and Afra alive throughout their adventure. Some people treat them with startling generosity; others despicably prey on their desperation. There are superhuman risks undertaken for modest visions of what might come. Where Lefteri particularly excels are the moments that require a softer touch, protecting the integrity of the characters themselves, especially as Nuri’s superhuman devotion slowly gives way to feverish mania, and Atra, an artist who can no longer see her works, gains a different kind of vision.

This is a book about global issues—conflict, the life-or-death arbitrariness of national borders, the Kafka-esque bureaucratic mazes that exhaust, rather than protects, those in trouble. Yet Lefteri locates hope and transcendence in small gestures, minor hopes. It lifts you from the page. This is a journey where the guides are the ghosts of people, following a map dotted with ghosts of places. Yet the destination remains, alighted by the tiny bee’s path, bringing sweetness wherever it goes, ensuring our survival through its pollination, humble and diligent, serving a cause greater than itself.   

— Hua Hsu
2020 finalist judge

2020 Nonfiction Winner

Chanel Miller - Know My Name

“In court, you testify in a wooden box and fear your words will be snuffed out at any moment. It’s that constant extinguishing that really wears you out. All that competing just to speak. Sitting down to write was the first time I could hear myself. Two o’clock in the morning, sitting in front of a blinking cursor on a blank screen in the quiet was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. No interruptions, nothing occurring, save for a small fan whirring. And then my book came out, solid as a brick, and I was still a nervous person. But one day I walked past a bookstore and saw my book, postured and proud and forward facing. And I understood that even if I slipped off the face of the earth tomorrow, my story would remain. I am in satchels and backpacks. I have fallen off of bedside tables, half tucked under the bed. My voice is indestructible. And there is a girl out there, who may be feeling as suffocated or hidden as I once was. Late at night, she’ll take out my book, and we’ll talk about the hardest parts, lay bare our buried feelings, and nobody can touch that space, and that to me is peace.”

— Chanel Miller



Chanel Miller is a writer and artist who received her BA in Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her critically acclaimed memoir, KNOW MY NAME, was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book, and a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, as well as a best book of 2019 in Time, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, NPR, and People, among others. She is a 2019 Time Next 100 honoree and a 2016 Glamour Woman of the Year honoree under her pseudonym, “Emily Doe.”


In June of 2016, BuzzFeed published a Victim Impact Statement that, within four days, was viewed by almost eleven million people. The author was “Emily Doe,” an anonymous young woman who had been sexually assaulted while she lay, intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness, behind a dumpster at Stanford University.

Know My Name is a dazzling memoir by that young woman. This time, the byline is not Emily Doe but Chanel Miller. As her title suggests, Miller is determined to tell us exactly who she is. Her court-assigned pseudonym safeguarded her privacy, but it also erased her individuality. In Know My Name, we get to know Miller as a complete human being, someone with parents, a sister, a boyfriend, a full set of personality quirks, and considerable talent as a writer and visual artist. She does not object to the word “victim,” but she objects to being seen only as a victim—someone flattened into a stereotype by the crime, by the court system, by social media, and by the reductive assumptions of strangers.

One way Chanel Miller reclaims her narrative is by refusing to conform to our expectations. “Victims exist in a society that tells us our purpose is to be an inspiring story,” she writes. She declines to serve that purpose. She therefore does not tell us she is “healed” or “redeemed” when in fact she is still in pain. Her account of what she went through during her assailant’s trial is so harrowing that it is likely to discourage other victims from pressing charges. But despite her fierce subversion of the standard uplifting story line, Miller gives those victims a gift more valuable than inspiration: she reduces their stigma by powerfully and publicly rejecting her own. 

It is difficult to write well about a traumatic event, especially one so recent. And the author is so young! But this book is more than a tirade; it is a work of art. Miller’s voice has extraordinary range, from furious to tender to witty to contemplative. We can expect to hear more of it in future decades, writing on a wide variety of topics. American literature should be honored to know Chanel Miller’s name.

– Anne Fadiman
2020 finalist judges


Book Excerpt

That night, lying on my sister’s frameless mattress on the floor, the churning laundry machine in the background, I could finally rest. I was content to have earned this moment of peace. I pulled out my small red notebook. I illuminated the pages with my phone, and wrote, I feel like I’ve already won. It was a small nod to myself; I had done the impossible, showed up. Those who watched me cry on the stand might have perceived me as fragile, but I believed it to be the quiet beginning of my strength. I did what I’d never thought I could do, had somehow been spit out on the other side, still far from the finish line, but alive. Side by side, we went to sleep.

2020 Nonfiction Runner-up

Jennifer Eberhardt - Biased

“Bias does its work in the shadows and in the open, reworking our brains, framing and distorting our relationships with each other, erecting barriers that limit how we experience the world. Until we understand both its mechanics and its menace, we’re hostage to its power and cut off from the full measure of our own humanity. By sharing science, stories and history, the written word can dismantle our illusions and prompt the kind of soul searching that inspires hope and courage and fuels a thirst for justice, lighting the path to authentic peace.

— Jennifer Eberhardt


Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt is a professor of psychology at Stanford and a recipient of a 2014 MacArthur “genius” grant. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers. She is co-founder and co-director of SPARQ, a Stanford Center that brings together researchers and practitioners to address significant social problems.

Book Excerpt

Bias has sought refuge inside us. In Charlottesville, it ripped through the pact we’ve made to pretend that blatant bigotry is a relic of the past. In truth, bias has been biding its time in an implicit world—in a place where we need not acknowledge it to ourselves or to others, even as it touches our soul and drives our behavior.

In this country, blacks have become a reminder of the racial bias that we refuse to see. Indeed, blacks have become symbolic of the unwanted. This is even apparent on college campuses, the setting for the construction of a new generation. I talked with black students who felt exhausted from fending off narratives that question their humanity. Those narratives are still operating across the country and around the world. They circulate in our minds and animate our culture. They still work to help free people live in peace.


Thriving on speed and ambiguity, bias flourishes on social media, deteriorating our public discourse, making conversations and a healthy exchange of ideas difficult and, often, noxious. Bias likewise impacts any of a hundred decisions each of us make every day, poisoning our ability to make informed decisions carefully, or to evaluate threats rationally. In some situations, how people wield bias can be a life-or-death situation. Our overreliance on bias, conflating it as fact, poses one of the greatest dangers to global society today.

In prose both clear-eyed and empathetic, coupled with a storyteller’s gift to empower her readers, Jennifer Eberhardt’s Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, offers us a crucial and timely examination of how bias and stereotypes impact decisions both trivial and of enormous consequence. A social psychologist at Stanford University, Eberhardt has spent years researching how “unconscious associations can shape our reality” that impact how we identify others, and ourselves. Her book draws on her life’s work of studying human behavior, which includes over fifteen years teaching police officers to recognize and understand how implicit bias can inform their interactions with communities they are hired to protect and serve, and researching how centuries of racist narratives and iconography have seeded bias, even at an unconscious level.

Eberhardt writes “As social threats rise, cultural norms shift, and group polarization turns extreme, we are being subjected to even more brazen displays of dehumanization—magnifying our worst impulses. We can’t afford to let them flourish.” At this pivotal moment in history, Eberhardt’s Bias offers real-world solutions to facilitate essential dialogues that have the potential to redeem and validate unheard or unspoken experiences, and to help each of us understand how to listen – to see – one another as equals. A remarkable book to navigate living through extraordinary times.


  • “Neither our evolutionary path nor our present culture dooms us to be held hostage by bias. Change requires a kind of open-minded attention that is well within our reach.”
  • “We all have the capacity to make change—within ourselves, in the world, and in our relationship to that world.”

“The narratives that prop up inequality can help us to live less troubled in a troubling world. But they also narrow our vision and strand ‘others’ on the wrong side of the opportunity divide. When our comfort comes at their expense, that’s a social cost that ultimately shortchanges everyone.”

– Brando Skyhorse
2020 finalist judges

2020 Finalists


10 Minutes, 38 Seconds by Elif Shafak (Bloomsbury)

In the pulsating moments after she was murdered and left in a dumpster outside Istanbul, Tequila Leila enters a state of heightened awareness. Her heart has stopped beating but her brain is still active for 10 minutest, 38 seconds. While the sun rises and her friends sleep soundly nearby, she remembers the power of friendship in her life and the lives of others, outcasts like her.

Lost Children by Valeria Luiselli (Alfred Knopf)

A mother and father set out with their two children, a boy and a girl, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. On the radio, there is news about an “immigration crisis”: thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States but getting detained–or lost in the desert along the way. At the same time, those in the car face a crisis of their own, and as they travel west, the bonds between them begin to fray. Told from multiple points of view and blending texts, sounds, and images, Lost Children Archive is an astonishing feat of literary virtuosity and a richly engaging story of how we document our experiences and how we remember the things that matter to us the most.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (Ballantine PRH)

The Winner of the 2020 Aspen Words Literary Prize, this unforgettable novel puts human faces on the Syrian war with the immigrant story of a beekeeper, his wife, and the triumph of spirit when the world becomes unrecognizable. Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, says: “A beautifully crafted novel of international significance that has the capacity to have us open our eyes.”

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster)

With The World That We Knew, Alice Hoffman delivers a sweeping novel that follows three unforgettable young women in Berlin in 1941 who must act with courage and love to survive. Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined. In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Ruffin (One World)

This electrifying, hallucinatory novel is at once a keen satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. At its center is a father who just wants his son to thrive in a broken world. Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s work evokes the clear vision of Ralph Ellison, the dizzying menace of Franz Kafka, and the crackling prose of Vladimir Nabokov. We Cast a Shadow fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate thing we do for the ones we love.


Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt (Viking)

In Biased, Dr. Eberhardt presents her ground-breaking and often shocking research and data on an urgent issue and demonstrates how our unconscious biases powerfully shape our behavior, leading to racial disparities from the classroom to the courtroom to the boardroom.  Refusing to shy away from the tragic consequences of prejudice, Eberhardt addresses how racial bias is not the fault of or restricted to a few “bad apples,” but present at all levels of society in media, education, and business.  Eberhardt reminds us that racial bias is a human problem—one that all people can play a role in solving.

Grace Will Lead Us Home by Jennifer Berry Hawes (St. Martin’s Press)

A deeply moving work of narrative nonfiction on the tragic shootings at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes. On June 17, 2015, twelve members of the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina welcomed a young white man to their evening Bible study. He arrived with a pistol, 88 bullets, and hopes of starting a race war. Dylan Roof’s massacre of nine innocents during their closing prayer horrified the nation. Two days later, some relatives of the dead stood at Roof’s hearing and said, “I forgive you.” That grace offered the country a hopeful ending to an awful story. But for the survivors and victims’ families, the journey had just begun.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller (Viking)

In the wake of her sexual assault, little was publicly understood about Emily Doe beyond the description victim. Devoid of any true humanity in her own story, Emily felt what many survivors experience: fear, shame, isolation, and self-doubt. During the intrusive and viciously long legal battle, she rose above the legal and media apparatus that silenced and discredited her. After her assailant was sentenced to only six months in county jail, Doe’s twelve-page statement was released publicly. Her message instantly resonated with millions. Today, Emily Doe emerges under her real name, Chanel Miller, to share the full story of her trauma and recovery in Know My Name. Emotionally honest, unwavering, powerful, and eloquent, Millers exquisite memoir is a testament to the power of words to heal and effect change.

Our Man by George Packer (Knopf)

From the award-winning author of The Unwinding – the vividly told saga of the ambition, idealism, and hubris of one of the most legendary and complicated figures in recent American history, set amid the rise and fall of U.S. power from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Richard Holbrooke was brilliant, utterly self-absorbed, and possessed of almost inhuman energy and appetites. Admired and detested, he was the force behind the Dayton Accords the ended the Balkan wars, America’s greatest diplomatic achievement in the post-Cold War era. His power lay in an utter belief in himself and his idea of a muscular, generous foreign policy. From his days as a young adviser in Vietnam to his last efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, Holbrooke embodied the postwar American impulse to take the lead on the global stage.

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)

From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions.  In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of the society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with.

What You Have Heard is True by Carolyn Forche’ (Penguin Press)

What You Have Heard is True is a devastating, lyrical, and visionary memoir about a young woman’s brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others. Written by one of the most gifted poets of her generation, this is the story of a woman’s radical act of empathy, and her fateful encounter with an intriguing man who changes the course of her life.

2020 Finalist Judges


Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee. Educated at FSU and Oxford University, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, Flamingo, and Garden & Gun. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. Tribal became a “consulting text” for ESPN’s  The American Game: College Football 150, a 12-part documentary series; Roberts herself appears in a number of episodes, ranting about everything from the University of Miami’s mascot to the Sports Industrial Complex’s obsession with Notre Dame. She is currently working on a series of essays about white women.

Hua Hsu

Hua Hsu is an associate professor of English at Vassar College and a
staff writer at the New Yorker. He is the author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific (Harvard University Press, 2016). His writing has also appeared in Artforum, The Atlantic, Grantland, Slate, and The Wire (UK). He currently serves on the executive board of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and the governance board of Critical Minded, a granting and learning
initiative to support cultural critics of color in the United States. He was formerly a fellow at New America and at Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.


   Brando Skyhorse   

Brando Skyhorse has a debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park (Simon & Schuster, 2010), that received the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award, and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The book was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. Take This Man: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, 2014) was an Amazon Best Book of the Month selection and named by Kirkus Reviews as one the Best Nonfiction Books of the year. Skyhorse has also co-edited an anthology, We Wear The Mask: 15 True Stories Of Passing in America (Beacon Press, 2017). He has been awarded fellowships at Ucross Foundation, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and was the 2014-2015 Jenny McKean Moore Writer-In-Washington at George Washington University. Skyhorse is an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Anne Fadiman

Anne Fadiman’s most recent book, The Wine Lover’s Daughter: A Memoir, was an NPR and Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Fadiman is also the author of two books of essays, Ex Libris and At Large and At Small, as well as The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, an account of a cross-cultural conflict between a family of Hmong refugees and their daughter’s physicians, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Boston Book Review Prize, and a Salon Book Award. Fadiman has received National Magazine Awards for both Essays and Reporting. The former editor of The American Scholar, she is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale. 

2020 Awards Ceremony

The 2016 Awards Ceremony was held at 5:00 pm on Sunday, November 5th, 2019, at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center at One West Second Street in Dayton, Ohio. Gilbert King was the Master of Ceremonies.

2019 Award Winners and Runners-up

Richard C. Holbrooke Award N. Scott Momaday

Fiction Award Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde for What We Owe

Nonfiction Award Eli Saslow for Rising Out of Hatred

Fiction Runner-up Richard Powers for The Overstory

Nonfiction Runner-up Wil Haygood for Tigerland

Additional Videos

Entire Awards Ceremony, November 5, 2019

2019 Author’s Reception, November 5, 2019

Conversations with the Authors, November 5, 2019

Photos by Andy Snow ( ©2019.

2020 Master of Ceremonies

Gilbert King

Gilbert King is the author of three books, most recently, Beneath a Ruthless Sun. His previous book, Devil in the Grove, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2013. A New York Times bestseller, the book was also named runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction, and was a finalist for both the Chautauqua Prize and the Edgar Award.

King has written about race, civil rights, and the death penalty for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic, and he is a Senior Fellow with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.

He is currently a fellow at The New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and he lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.