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James McBride, Louise Erdrich, Ma Jian, Thomas Friedman Among
Finalists for 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Dayton, OH (August 18, 2009) – In recognition of their work chronicling human rights in Asia, Africa, and the developing world, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Committee today announced that authors and journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn will receive the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

Celebrating the power of literature to promote peace and nonviolence, The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. It was founded in 2006 as an outgrowth of the Dayton Peace Prize, which commemorates the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords ending the war in Bosnia. Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium and runners-up receive $1,000.

Since becoming the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Tiananmen Square protests for the New York Times, Kristof and WuDunn have collaborated on such influential, milestone books as China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power and Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia. In 2006, Kristof received a second Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times op-ed columns on Darfur. Their latest book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, will be released in September 2009.

“Kristof and WuDunn share a passion for peace and justice that inspires both readers and leaders to pay attention to difficult issues that are too often ignored and overlooked,” said Sharon Rab, chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Committee. “Their writing and reporting exemplifies the power of the written word to create change and spur people and nations to action.”

Organizers also announced the fiction and nonfiction finalists for the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The finalists include both first-time authors (Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner and My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar) and veteran writers (A Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker and Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman) and explore a diverse range of issues ranging from modern-day slavery (A Crime So Monstrous by Benjamin Skinner) to America’s role in the world (The Great Experiment by Strobe Talbott) to the morality of war (Peace by Richard Bausch).

Reflecting the Prize’s mission to promote global understanding, the finalists also hail from countries around the world – from China (Beijing Coma by Ma Jian) and Israel (Writing in the Dark by David Grossman) to Africa (Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan) and Canada (Dust from our Eyes: an Unblinkered Look at Africa by Joan Baxter). The full list of finalists can be found below and online at

The 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize fiction finalists are:

  • Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Little, Brown & Company): A Nigerian-born Jesuit priest, Akpan humanizes the perils of poverty and violence facing children in Africa in this stunning collection of five short stories.

  • Peace by Richard Bausch (Knopf): Set among American soldiers in Italy during World War Two, Peace is a compelling meditation on the moral dimensions of warfare.

  • The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (Harper Collins): A violent act of racism haunts generations of Native American and white families living in rural North Dakota.

  • Beijing Coma by Ma Jian (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Emerging from a coma caused by a bullet during the Tiananmen Square protests ten year earlier, a man recounts the horrors of the Mao era and senses the massive changes underway in China.

  • Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner (Scribner): The story of American executives and their families driven out of Cuba in 1958, Kushner’s powerful debut novel is a riveting exploration of colonialism, corporate America, and revolution.

  • Song Yet Sung by James McBride (Penguin Group): The haunting story of a runaway slave and a determined slave-catcher in pre-Civil War Maryland, Song Yet Sung explores both the moral choices faced by both blacks and whites and the meaning of freedom.

The 2009 nonfiction finalists are:

  • Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster): In this wide-ranging, fresh perspective on the political and social landscape that gave rise to World War II, Baker makes a clear, compelling case in defense of pacifism.

  • Dust from our Eyes: An Unblinkered Look at Africa by Joan Baxter (Wolsak & Wynn): Baxter draws on more than two decades of living in and reporting from Africa to reveal that there is more to the continent than poverty and suffering, and far more to Western involvement than benevolent charity.

  • Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): Taking a provocative look at the crises of climate change and rising competition for energy, Friedman proposes a national strategy to make America healthier, richer, and more secure.

  • Writing in the Dark by David Grossman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): In six essays on politics and culture in Israel, including his speech on the 2006 Lebanon War, which took the life of his son, Grossman addresses the conscience of a country that has lost faith in its leaders and its ideals.

  • My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for his Father’s Past by Ariel Sabar (Algonquin): Traveling with his father to a remote corner of war-torn Iraq in a quest for roots and reconciliation, Sabar shares an intimate story of tolerance and hope in an Iraq very different from the one in the headlines today.

  • A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern Day Slavery by Benjamin Skinner (Free Press): Based on years of reporting in such places as Haiti, Sudan, India, Eastern Europe, The Netherlands, and, even suburban America, Skinner has produced a vivid testament and moving reportage on the horrors of contemporary slavery.

  • The Great Experiment by Strobe Talbott (Simon & Schuster): Combining sweeping history with personal insight, Talbott explores the consolidation of tribes into nations and argues for America's unique role in modern history as "the master builder" of the international system.

A winner and runner-up in fiction and nonfiction will be announced on September 22nd. They will be honored at a gala ceremony hosted by award-winning journalist Nick Clooney in Dayton on Sunday, November 8th. Winners and runners-up will also participate in a public reading in Books & Company in Dayton on November 8th.

To be eligible for the 2009 awards, English-language books must have been published and translated into English in 2008 and address the theme of peace on a variety of levels, such as between individuals, among families and communities, or among nations, religions, or ethnic groups.

Finalists will be reviewed by a panel of prominent writers including Gerald Early, Cullen Murphy, Gordon Lish, and Katherine Vaz.

About the Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Click here to visit our website The Dayton Literary Peace Prize honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. Launched in 2006, it has already established itself as one of the world’s most prestigious literary honors, and is the only literary peace prize awarded in the United States. As an offshoot of the Dayton Peace Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize awards a $10,000 cash prize each year to one fiction and one nonfiction author whose work advances peace as a solution to conflict, and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view. An annual lifetime achievement award is also bestowed upon a writer whose body of work reflects the Prize's mission; previous honorees included Taylor Branch, Studs Terkel, and Elie Wiesel.

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Promoting Peace and Literacy Around the World

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