Dayton Literary Peace Prize

2022 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke
Distinguished Achievement Award

Wil Haygood

“The history of America─much of the world even─is marked by a relentless struggle for peace. This is our hard climb. Where it concerns Black Americans and their quest for justice, I’ve been drawn to many stories, often stories missing from the history books. My real-life characters ask a simple question when it comes to peace: “Why can’t we all get along?” From Jackson, Mississippi, to Chicago; from the Los Angeles that had erupted in rebellion because of police brutality to war-torn Somalia, I’ve heard the same question, from both young and old. So, the harder the peace, the more I want to write.”

— Wil Haygood                       



Born in Columbus, Ohio, and educated at Miami University, Wil Haygood has traveled the world as a journalist writing about war, peace, and political activism for The Pittsburg Post-Gazette, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post.  He covered the coal industry, was taken hostage by Somali rebels, and covered war zones in Nigeria and India. He covered apartheid in South Africa and witnessed the release of Nelson Mandela. He covered the Los Angeles Riots, slipped into a prison to interview soul-singer James Brown, spent 40 days in Louisiana covering Hurricane Katrina, and covered the first presidential campaign of Barack Obama.  He has been honored with numerous awards for his reporting.

For the last three decades his books have captured the sweep of American culture focusing on the rarely or never-told stories of the Black experience with the in-depth analysis that this nation so desperately needs.  His books began with personal stories of a trip down a river, and a coming-of-age memoir of his growing up in Columbus.  They then begin to range out into biographies of Black politicians, entertainers, and sports figures who have carved out a place in history in the name of justice:  Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. helped President Johnson pass the War on Poverty legislation; Sammy Davis Jr., was a major financial backer of the MLK March on Selma; Sugar Ray Robinson, worked to secure financial rights for fighters.  Like Haygood himself, each subject used his particular talents to bring us closer to justice and peace.

His book The Butler about Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents at the White House, became an award-winning film that was number one at the box office for weeks.  His next three books are familiar to the DLPP audience, Showdown, a DLPP finalist focused on the contentious 1967 battle to get Thurgood Marshall onto the Supreme Court; Tigerland picked up the next two years, 1968 and 1969 and followed Black athletes as they captured two state titles in Columbus, Ohio.  His most recent book Colorization takes a century-long look at decades of Hollywood’s handling of g the dreams of Black actors, actresses, writers and directors.  His books have won multiple awards.

Wil Haygood has been the recipient of multiple fellowships including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship.  He has received Honorary Degrees from Loyola, Ohio Wesleyan, Hood College and Goucher College and his own alma mater Miami where he received the Presidential Medal, the highest honor the university bestows and where a street on campus was name Wil Haygood Lane, which is where the Freedom Summer volunteers gathered before they headed south to Mississippi to register Black voters and where James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner – were subsequently murdered by Klansmen. In 2019, Wil became the writer in residence for the Roger Brown Residency in Social Justice, Writing, and Sport at the University of Dayton.

Book Excerpt 

In 1957 Congressman Adam Clayton Powell  appeared along with Martin Luther King Jr. and labor leader A. Philip Randolph at the first-ever Prayer Pilgrimage in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. Blacks had begun boycotts in the South against a litany of woes, among them the reality that civil rights murders were becoming commonplace. Powell – better known than King at the time – wanted to make a stand for peace. “Not behind the iron curtain, but within the United States, men of God are being arrested, houses of worship are being bombed, and American citizens are continually meeting with physical violence,” Powell told the press. The multi-racial pilgrimage went off beautifully, and it would set the stage for the March on Washington six years later. The Eisenhower administration did not want the Prayer Pilgrimage to take place, just as the Kennedy administration did not want the 1963 March on Washington to take place. 


Wil Haygood is more than a prominent journalist, author and educator. He’s a cultural historian. He’s a peacemaker. He’s a faithful witness to history. Above all, he’s a brilliant storyteller who captures the beating heart of our times through the individual lives he chronicles.

“The history of America — much of the world even — is marked by a relentless struggle for peace. This is our hard climb,” observes Haygood, who has spent his life writing at the intersection of politics, history and race for newspapers and books.

Whether as a foreign correspondent covering apartheid in South Africa and the release of Nelson Mandela or an author tracing the civil rights struggle through the eyes of a White House butler who served under eight presidents, Haygood tells the untold stories that shape our view of the world. In a word, his writing is transformational.

With a journalist’s curiosity and keen eye for detail and nuance, he illuminates the joys, triumphs, sadness and pain of 20th century Black Americans. By telling their compelling stories, he shines a light on painful truths and hopes we see our shared humanity. 

During his storied career, Haygood has watched history unfold as he traveled the world and traversed the country. He’s reported from war zones in Nigeria and India, was taken hostage by Somali rebels, spent 40 days in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, wrote about the beating of Rodney King and covered the first presidential campaign of the nation’s only Black president, Barack Obama. 

His prolific body of work includes nine nonfiction books, including two memoirs and biographies of such luminaries as Thurgood Marshall, Sammy Davis Jr. and Sugar Ray Robinson. Haygood’s beautifully written and researched books display his innate ability to ease the racial divide, foster greater understanding among diverse people and bring us closer to a peaceful and just society.  

In Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, A Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing, he tells the uplifting story of teams from a poor, segregated Columbus high school that won two state championships in the same year. His most recent book, Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World, has been described as “a prism to explore Black culture, civil rights and racism in America” as it takes readers from the silent era to the death of George Floyd.

Haygood is adept at telling the backstory, what he calls “the forgotten story.” The best example may be his New York Times’ bestseller, The Butler: A Witness to History, which was later made into a critically acclaimed film starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. 

Through his writings and lectures, Haygood looks at life through the lens of race and culture as a way to open our eyes to the need for reflection, dialogue — and change. 

“Race is the colossal story of our times,” he maintains. “We overlook race at our own peril. I think people are growing more and more interested and intrigued with … how writers can pull back the curtains, be it in Rwanda or Liberia or Bosnia or America — to show the reality of life on the ground.”

As a testament to the respect he holds in the literary and journalistic worlds, he has received honorary degrees, prestigious fellowships and writer’s residencies. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace.

For his lifelong quest for justice and “relentless struggle for peace,” Wil Haygood is presented with the 2022 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. 

—Eric Spina, President, University of Dayton

2022 Fiction Winner

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers - The Love Songs of W. E B. Dubois

“As the descendant of enslaved African Americans, and as a person who was reared on land that once belonged—and to my mindful logic, still belongs—to Southeastern Indigenous peoples, I frequently contemplate peace.

I know it’s not a raised voice, but is it silence? I know it’s not a coming to blows, but is it backing away from a fight, the absence of conflict? I used to believe that peace meant serenity between bodies or nations or kin. When I became a writer—or I should say, when I accepted the fact that I’d always been a writer—I sought to balance a claimed calmness in my spirit with an acknowledgement of history, but history is not always a site of peace. A balancing—a peaceful journey—seemed an impossible task, like reversing gravity—floating up instead of falling—or putting blood back into a vein.

I have trod this writer’s path for many more years than I haven’t and I believe that peace equals naming. A litany of ancestors and chosen kin, an utterance, the tonal truth of what occurred, when few want to accept or even know the past. This is peace, even when the present or past isn’t joyful. This is peace: a knowing that my voice equals thunder, only because I am speaking an urged echo. The syllables I can claim only because someone now dead told me, Tell them. Speak. Write it down—all that I make is an again that was made before me.

My peace is a quelling of the fear that a story might be lost. This is what the dead ones passed to me: the toll, and the toil in this fearful time of breaking, but a courageous time of salvation, if we would but name. This wisdom is quick, what I’ve only just learned. Yet this is what I hope to hand to the newly speaking, before I, too, am called to leave.”

—Honorée Fanonne Jeffers


Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a fiction writer, poet, and essayist. She is the author of five poetry collections, including the 2020 collection The Age of Phillis, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, was longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award, the George Washington Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She was a contributor to The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward, and has been published in the Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and other literary publications. Jeffers was elected into the American Antiquarian Society, whose members include fourteen U.S. presidents, and is critic at large for Kenyon Review. She teaches creative writing and literature at University of Oklahoma. The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois is her first novel and was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, longlisted for the National Book Award, shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, a Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and an Oprah Book Club Pick.


Honoree Fannone Jeffers’ debut novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, is about the world of our ancestors, and lets them sing. Their high notes are legacy, history, tradition, and the mysteries of the spirit world. Their low notes are the atrocities of the Mid-Atlantic Slave Trade, smoothed over and often dismissed, yet impossible to ignore, thanks to the inherited damage that continues to contaminate society today. They sing of the early days when the Indigenous mixed with the African and the Scottish, and they sing of their descendants.

From the early days of what is now Georgia, in America, we visit Seminole territory, moon houses, Creek villages. This early America, with its society of slavers and the enslaved, is juxtaposed with the modern story of Ailey Garfield coming of age in the contemporary South. We watch as Ailey confronts familial responsibility, racism, sexism, and domestic abuse. For Ailey, the academic world looms as opportunity and refuge, even as street life in the city is also a reality for her and her family. Intellectual ideology provides hope but is also problematic; Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois do not see things, eye to eye. The Black community, as monolith, is deconstructed, here. We experience 20th Century America, particularly the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the complexities of drug addiction and the constrictions of marriage, through Ailey’s mother, her sisters, and her extended family.

This cacophony of voices is ultimately about love, even as heinous acts occur during slavery and continue in contemporary America. Depraved family members co-exist with righteous matriarchs and patriarchs. Class differences between lovers, colorism, and identity are also themes in this ambitious work. Jeffers celebrates the power of education and ideas, the community provided by the African American church, and the survival of a people confronting unbelievable odds. These love songs exalt literature and activism and are an invitation to us all to join in.

–Lisa Page,
2022 finalist judge

Book Excerpt

Miss Rose sitting on a porch. Beside her, a bushel basket of ripe peaches or tomatoes. The drunkards buzzing, but easily smashed with a swat. Early mornings, she starts singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and that’s your cue to rise. To eat the heavy breakfast that will keep you full all day. Once you’ve helped her with peeling those tomatoes or peaches, there are weeds to be plucked from the garden, from around the vegetables that will show up fresh on the supper table. Fish need cleaning if Uncle Norman comes through with a prize. After dinner, the piecing together of quilt tops from remnants until the light completely fades. The next morning, it starts again. A woman singing off-key praises to the Lord. The sweet fruit dripping with juice. The sound of bugs.

I thought of what Mama liked to say: to find this kind of love, you have to enter deep country.

2022 Fiction Runner-up

JoAnne Tompkins - What Comes After

“Peace—or lack of peace—begins in the heart of each individual. If we cannot be at peace within ourselves, how can we be at peace within our families, our neighborhoods, our work places? If we cannot forgive those we love and hold with affection, how will we ever open our hearts to those we dismiss as enemy or fail to see as fully human? Perhaps the greatest question of our lives is how do we, as individuals, grow our hearts in peace and in love. How do we loosen the constrictions of grievance and resentment, how do we free ourselves from our biases and distortions of perception so that we may see more clearly, so that we may create more peace in this world? Deeply drawn characters arouse curiosity in us, allow us to look beyond surface differences, beyond the labels we reflexively impose, and, in doing so, we invariably come face-to-face with ourselves. We discover that we are not alone in our struggle to forgive, to love, to reconnect with life after loss and betrayal, that we are all, at some level, seeking peace in our lives. This is what literature offers, a place to locate in others—no matter how unfamiliar the character’s habitus or attitudes or life situation—the same heart that beats inside us, one that longs to be seen, to be part of a larger community, to love and be loved. And, it is in this understanding of our one shared heart, our one shared life, where peace can be found. “

–JoAnne Tompkins


JoAnne Tompkins is the author of What Comes After, published April 2021 by Riverhead Books. What Comes After was chosen by the New York Times as the April 2021 book group selection in its Group Text Column which called it a “nail-biting wallop of a debut novel . . . Powerful and inspiring.” She was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award as well as the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. JoAnne Tompkins’s first career as a trial lawyer and mediator immersed her in lives disrupted by conflict, injury, and far too often violence and abuse. Yet, she discovered in many a resilience and passion for life that continues to move her. Her personal essays, short fiction, interview and poetry explore the possibility of finding grace in life’s darkest moments and have appeared in print and online journals such as LitHub, Writer in the World, and High Country News. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington with her husband and pup where she continues to work as a writer and editor. 

Book Excerpt

That’s how it will be, right? When they find my note later this morning. Everyone tracing back through my life, looking for devil markings on my skin. I’ve been doing it too. For days, I’ve felt tender spots on my scalp like horns might be pushing through. But I keep thinking about something Mr. Balch said last spring when we were walking back from meeting.

I’d started jabbering on about politics, ended up saying a certain leader of ours was evil. Mr. Balch, who’d been quiet till then, stopped and turned to me, all urgent like he could get. “Evil isn’t a person,” he said. “It’s not a political group either. Or a religion like some people think. Evil is a force. Like gravity. It acts on all of us. We’re all vulnerable to it.”


In her debut novel, What Comes After, JoAnne Tompkins weaves a complex, suspenseful story of the violent death of a popular teenager at the hands of his best friend. We learn of this murder-suicide on the opening pages and spend much of the novel finding out what lived below the surface between them. Tompkins creates a serious work of fiction from a subject matter more often found in the lurid tabloids at the grocery-store checkout. Whether the victims are school leaders, troubled youth, or some combination of both, the aftermath of such horrors follows a similar pattern in our media-driven world. The commentators move quickly from who, what, when, where, and why to the assignment of responsibility. Who or what is to blame? Before meaningful answers come to light, there is another inexpiable tragedy, and our minds move on to the next cursed town. What Comes After calls for us to linger instead in the broken community.

Tompkins resists the impulse among too many contemporary writers to preach at the audience about societal ills. She does not instruct her readers with tidy life lessons; rather, she renders a gripping story of heartbreak and redemption. She presents adolescent rage, parental love, sexual lust, religious faith, and the kindness of strangers as equally potent in the natural world, real and imagined. She makes characters suffer who we would not wish to suffer, and often they suffer for reasons rooted as much in their moral strengths as in their moral failings. In this, they reflect our own raw emotions back at us but on a tragic scale.

Contrary to its subject matter, What Comes After is not a dark novel. It is a work of quiet and slow and triumphant optimism that comes from the formation of an unexpected community: a loving dog in his final days, a pregnant teenager in search of a true home, and two wary neighbors who have lost too much of everything but not yet—not ever?—their humanity. The aptly titled What Comes After is a story of birth, and rebirth, and the many ways we pass through grief on the way to peace.

– Jon Parrish Peede,
2022 finalist judge

2022 Nonfiction Winner

Clint Smith - How the Word is Passed

“When I was a child growing up in New Orleans, I remember being inundated—in ways both explicit and subtle—with messages touting all the things that were wrong with Black people. It was a seemingly endless barrage of pathology that was wielded to suggest Black people were singularly responsible for the inequality we were experiencing. I remember a feeling of social and emotional paralysis, knowing that what I was hearing was wrong, but not having the language, the toolkit, or the framework with which to push back against it. I had little understanding of the historical phenomena that underpinned racial inequality in New Orleans and across the country. I did not have the historical acumen to challenge the ideas that I knew in my gut were dangerous and untrue.

How the Word Is Passed is my effort to write the sort of book that I felt like I needed when I was in my high school American History class. It is an effort to establish a clearer connection between the past and present. It is an effort to help the younger version of me more fully understand how the legacy of slavery has shaped the way that my city, my state, and my country look the way that they do today.

Without an accurate sense of history, there can be no sense of peace. We must engage rigorously with the past in order to accurately understand the landscape of contemporary inequality. Without a shared understanding of what came before us, we will continue to see fissures that break us further apart.”

–Clint Smith


Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, and selected by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2021. He is also the author of the poetry collection, Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Clint earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Davidson College and a Ph.D. in education from Harvard University.


Clint Smith’s extraordinary narrative takes us on  a most remarkable tour. Remarkable in that he is showing us, so many of us, what has been in front of our eyes all of our lives. Through eight U.S. cities with a detour to Dakkar, Senegal, this poet and historian shows us the legacy of enslavement. He is asking readers to see and to think about the overwhelming remnants of “honors” to Civil War heroes and anti-emancipation monuments.

“The history of slavery is the history of the United States,” Smith writes. “It was not peripheral to our founding; it was central to it. It is not irrelevant to our contemporary society; it created it. This history is in our soil, it is in our policies, and it must, too, be in our memories.”

Smith grew up in New Orleans, but acknowledges that he did not think about the history of enslavement when, as a child, he walked down streets named for slave owners. Standing in front of a plaque installed by the New Orleans Committee to Erect Markers on the Slave Trade, he realizes that “After years of Black people being killed by police and having their deaths broadcast in videos streamed across the world, after a white supremacist went into a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine people as they prayed, after neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protect a Confederate statue and reclaim a history born of a lie, after George Floyd was killed by a police officer’s knee on his neck, cities across the country have begun to more fully reckon with the history that made such moments possible—a history that many had previously been unwilling to acknowledge.”

Smith’s writing is beautiful—he is a poet, after all. The prologue opens with this lyrical sentence: “The sky above the Mississippi River stretched out like a song.”

Yet enmeshed in the eloquence, Smith’s book is replete with revelations. In one startling paragraph he writes about a free Black man who wanted to pay to be re-enslaved so that he could keep his family from being separated. “The love he had for his family outweighed every other consideration.” On Smith’s visit to New York City, he discovers that plots in what would become Manhattan’s Central Park, Seneca Village, had actually been purchased by free Blacks and whites from a white couple between 1825 and 1857. When New York City’s mayor declared eminent domain to create Central Park, their property, churches, and gardens were seized, and they were bludgeoned, dragged away. 

In May of 2019 Smith learned that a new museum on Liberty Island “put forward a new interpretation of the Statue of Liberty origin—that it ‘was intended, in part, to celebrate the abolition of slavery in the United States.’” Smith investigated. A French law professor, Édouard René de Laboulaye, was an “ardent abolitionist” and proposed the gift of the statue “to lift up the cause of freedom.” When sculptor Fréderic-Auguste Bartholdi crafted his first exemplar, “Liberty Enlightening the World,” the woman held a pair of broken shackles in her left hand. By the time the statue was shipped to Liberty Island, for political reasons, the chains had virtually disappeared under her robes. “My eyes moved to Lady Liberty’s feet, and I thought I could see the faint contours of broken chains,” Smith wrote of his ferry ride back to the mainland. “But I might also have imagined seeing them because I finally knew they were there.”

—Lou Ann Walker
2022 finalist judges

Book Excerpt

Across the United States, and abroad, there are places whose histories are inextricably tied to the story of human bondage. Many of these places directly confront and reflect on their relationship to that history; many of these places do not. But in order for our country to collectively move forward, it is not enough to have a patchwork of places that are honest about this history while being surrounded by other spaces that undermine it. It must be a collective endeavor to learn and confront the story of slavery and how it has shaped the world we live in today.  

2022 Nonfiction Runner-up

Andrea Elliott - Invisible Child

“It is, most often, the absence of peace that draws a journalist’s attention. We are pulled into war zones, natural disasters, political uprisings, global epidemics. Each crisis, and its aftermath, invites competing narratives. It then falls to the journalist to sort fact from fiction, all in the pursuit of clarity and “truth.” But the longer we immerse – through the act of showing up, through the art of listening, through the patience of observation – the closer we come to something more profound. We might describe this as “understanding,” a word so common we have forgotten its origins. It comes from Old English, understandan, which means “to stand in the midst of.” To understand does not mean we have arrived at the ultimate truth, but that we have – in truth’s pursuit – stood in the midst of the world, which is to see all of its dimensions.”

—Andrea Elliott


Andrea Elliott is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who has documented the lives of poor Americans, Muslim immigrants and other people on the margins of power. She is an investigative reporter for The New York Times and the author of Invisible Child, which won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction and was chosen by Barack Obama as a favorite book of the year and by The New York Times as one of the top 10 books of 2021. Elliott is also the recipient of a 2007 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, a George Polk award, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, an Overseas Press Club award, and Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence, given to one alumna under the age of 45. She is the first woman to win individual Pulitzer Prizes in both Journalism and Arts & Letters. 

Book Excerpt

To follow Dasani, as she comes of age, is to follow her seven siblings. Whether they are riding the bus, switching trains, climbing steps, or jumping puddles, they always move as one. Only together have they learned to navigate poverty’s systems—ones with names suggesting help. Child protection. Public assistance. Criminal justice. Homeless services.

To watch these systems play out in Dasani’s life is to glimpse their power, their flaws, and the threat they pose to Dasani’s own system of survival. Her siblings are her greatest solace; their separation, her greatest fear. This is freighted by other forces beyond her control—hunger, violence, racism, homelessness, parental drug addiction, pollution, segregated schools. Any one of these afflictions could derail a promising child.


In 2012 Andrea Elliott, a New York Times reporter, heard about extraordinarily difficult conditions in a New York City shelter where 432 homeless children and parents lived. 39 Auburn Place in Brooklyn. But she knew that reporters were banned from the heavily-guarded building. Outside she tried to make contact with residents who distrusted her. Until finally she met Chanel and her precocious 11-year-old, Dasani. Once Chanel learned that Elliott’s own mother was a Chilean immigrant and that Elliott had two daughters, she agreed to allow Elliott access into their regimented world.

What emerged from those moments of trust is extraordinary. For eight years Elliott followed Dasani, the whip-smart child who was truly the parent to her seven siblings, making sure the children were fed, went to the doctor, and arrived at school on time. And, yes, it was her job every morning to clean out the yellow plastic bin that served as the family’s slop bucket. In Room 449 Dasani and her siblings fought vermin and roaches, all the while protecting themselves from city administrators criticizing the family, withholding basic assistance. The family was given expired baby formula, bad food, and often spent nights without heat.

Elliott is a meticulous, respectful reporter. And painstaking. She is careful with every detail regarding Dasani’s family. Even as the children are divided up—pulled out of the homeless system to foster care, despite the fact that those labels are “more synonymous than distinct”—Elliott documents what those divisions mean to these people.

Near the end of Invisible Child Elliott reports that in 2020 a hoodie-clad young man shot a man with a semiautomatic pistol in Staten Island. The shooter was Khaliq, one of Dasani’s brothers. As a 14-year-old, “when he had lashed out violently a month after entering foster care and went to jail for the first time,” Elliott reported: “I’m never getting out of here. This is my future.” Khaliq had despaired after losing all contact with his father.

Elliott poignantly shows that when the systems that are supposed to support children and their families fail, the outcome is tragic. Dasani’s life was “touched by poverty, from childcare and education to housing and medical care. And there was no separating poverty from race—from the family’s constant encounter with individual and systemic racism.” In Elliott’s afterword, she writes: “To be poor is to be surveilled.” A heart-rending sentence. Surveilled and yet not enough of these government agencies effect change.

Not all of Dasani’s siblings escaped violent lives, yet through her investigation and compassionate writing, Andrea Elliott has given us an unforgettable portrait of Dasani, a true heroine.

–Lou Ann Walker
2022 finalist judge

2022 Finalists


Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim (HarperCollins Publishers)

An epic story of love, war, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement, Juhea Kim’s debut novel follows the intertwined fates of a young girl sold to a courtesan school and the penniless son of a hunter. Immersive, elegant, and unforgettable, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster)

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, comes the instant New York Times bestseller that is a “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” (The New York Times Book Review).

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (Simon & Schuster)

From award-winning and internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, a dual citizen of Colombia and daughter of immigrants, a “profound, beautiful novel” (People) that chronicles the “breathtaking story of the unimaginable prices paid for a better life” (Esquire). In the bestselling Infinite Country, the decisions and indecisions that led Mauro, Elena, Karina, Nando, and Talia to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope—as do the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.

North by Brad Kessler (Abrams, Inc)

North traces the epic journey of Sahro from her home in Somalia to South America, along the migrant route through Central America and Mexico, to New York City, and finally, her last attempt to cross into safety in Canada. It also traces the inner journeys of Father Christopher questioning his monastic way of life, which seems suddenly outdated and privileged, and veteran Teddy Fletcher, who is seeking a way to make peace with his past.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (HarperCollins)

The 2020 NAACP Image Award-winning poet makes her fiction debut with this National Book Award-longlisted, magisterial epic. This intimate yet sweeping novel, with all the luminescence and force of Homegoing; Sing, Unburied, and The Water Dancer, chronicles the journey of one American family from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era.

What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins (Riverhead Books)

After the shocking death of two teenage boys tears apart a community in the Pacific Northwest, a mysterious pregnant girl emerges from the woods and into the lives of those same boys’ families. What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. It is a deeply moving account of strangers and friends not only helping each other forward after tragedy, but inspiring a new kind of family.


High Conflict by Amanda Ripley (Simon & Schuster)

When we are baffled by the insanity of the “other side”—in our politics, at work, or at home—it’s because we aren’t seeing how the conflict itself has taken over. That’s what “high conflict” does. It’s the invisible hand of our time. In High Conflict, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley investigates how good people get captured by high conflict—and how they break free.

How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith (Little, Brown and Company)

This compelling #1 New York Times bestseller examines the legacy of slavery in America—and how both history and memory continue to shape our everyday lives. A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed is a landmark of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history and ourselves.

Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott (Random House)

Invisible Child, winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize, is the unforgettable story of Dasani Coates, a homeless girl whose indomitable spirit is tested by poverty and racism in an unequal America. Elliott traces Dasani’s ancestors from slavery to the Brooklyn shelter where Dasani must guide her siblings through a world riddled by hunger, violence, and drug addiction. Dasani’s acceptance at a boarding school gives her the chance to exit poverty, but at the risk of abandoning her family, as well.

The Last Nomad by Shugri Said Salh (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

In this brave, remarkable memoir about an idyllic childhood shattered by war, Shugri Said Salh describes growing up as a nomad in the Somali desert, herding goats along with her grandmother. When the Somali Civil War breaks out, she must flee, first to a refugee camp and eventually to North America. Both a personal and a national history, The Last Nomad captures a lost world and is a riveting story of resilience, survival, and the shifting definitions of home.

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee (Random House Publishing Group)

McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs while also sharing the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message to all Americans offers a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.

Wildland by Evan Osnos (Bloomsbury Publishing)

A dramatic, prescient examination of seismic changes in American politics and culture, Wildland is the story of a crucible, a period bounded by two shocks to America’s psyche, two assaults on the country’s sense of itself: the attacks of September 11 in 2001 and the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Following the lives of everyday Americans in three cities and across two decades, Evan Osnos reveals how we lost the moral confidence to see ourselves as larger than the sum of our parts.

2022 Finalist Judges


thumbnail_DLPP22_headshot_Jon Peede credit Vincent Ricardel

Jon Parrish Peede

is the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he awarded $500 million in federal grants to cultural organizations, universities, and scholars. His previous positions include Publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia, Literature Grants Director at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Director of the NEA Big Read program, and Editor at Mercer University Press. For seven years, he served as Director of the NEA Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience program and taught therapeutic writing workshops for U.S. troops and military families. Peede is co-editor of a collection of essays on Flannery O’Connor and has published widely. He completed his B.S. at Vanderbilt University and M.A. at the University of Mississippi. He is Visiting Writer in Residence at Mississippi Valley State University and is a Senior Fellow of the Common Sense Society in Washington, DC.

DLPP22_headshot_Lisa Page credit Clarence Page

Lisa Page

is co-editor of We Wear The Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America, (Beacon Press). Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, LitHub Weekly, The Crisis, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, Playboy, the Washington Post Book World and other publications. She is assistant professor of English at the George Washington University and Director of Creative Writing. She previously served as Interim Director of Africana Studies. She is also a resident faculty member of the Yale Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.


DLPP21_headshot_garnette-cadogan photo credit Eze Amos

Garnette Cadogan

is the Tunney Lee Distinguished Lecturer in Urbanism at the School of Architecture + Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Senior Critic in the Department of Sculpture at Yale School of Art. His current research explores the promise and perils of urban life, the vitality and inequality of cities, and the challenges of pluralism. He writes about culture and the arts for various publications, and, in Fall 2017, was included in a list of 29 writers from around the world who “represent the future of new writing.” He is the editor-at-large of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas (co-edited by Rebecca Solnit and IPK Fellow Joshua Jelly-Schapiro) and is at work on a book on walking.

DLPP22_headshot_Lou Ann Walker(c)2012 by Star Black30(1)

  Lou Ann Walker 

is the author of A Loss for Words (HarperCollins), a memoir about growing up with Deaf parents, which won the Christopher Award and was a Book of the Month Club selection. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in: Oprah, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Allure, Esquire, The Hopewell Review, The Writer, and American Photo.Other books include Roy Lichtenstein: The Artist at Work (Penguin) and Hand, Heart & Mind: The Story of the Education of Deaf People in America (Dial). Walker has taught ASL at Marymount Manhattan and Columbia University Medical School. Formerly an editor at Esquire and New York magazines, and a consulting editor for New York Woman, she is a recipient of a Marguerite Higgins Reporting Award, and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the NEA. She is a professor in Stony Brook University’s MFA creative writing program where served as director for three years. Founder and Executive Editor of TSR: The Southampton Review, a literary and arts journal, she lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

2022 Awards Ceremony

Menu for the evening of Sunday, November 13

Beef & Chicken Duo

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The 2022 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.

2022 Award Winners and Runners-up

Richard C. Holbrooke Award Wil Haygood

Fiction Award 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.

The 2022 Awards Ceremony was held at 5:00 pm on Sunday, November 13th, 2022, at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center at One West Second Street in Dayton, Ohio. Gilbert King was the Master of Ceremonies.

2022 Award Winners and Runners-up

Richard C. Holbrooke Award Wil Haygood

Fiction Award Honorée Fanonne Jeffers for The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

Nonfiction Award Clint Smith for How the Word is Passed

Fiction Runner-up JoAnne Tompkins for What Comes After

Nonfiction Runner-up Andrea Elliott for Invisible Child

2022 Master of Ceremonies

Gilbert King

Gilbert King is the writer, producer, and host of Bone Valley, a nine-part narrative podcast about murder and injustice in 1980s central Florida, from Lava for Good podcasts. He 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. King has written about race, civil rights, and the death penalty for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, and he was a 2019-2020 fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library. King’s earlier book, The Execution of Willie Francis, was published in 2008. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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