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THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW BY ALICE HOFFMAN AND KNOW MY NAME BY CHANEL
MILLER ARE NAMED WINNERS OF THE 2020 DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE
Biased by Jennifer Eberhardt and The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri named runners-up
Winners will be honored at a gala ceremony on June 27, 2021
Dayton, OH (November 11, 2020) – Alice Hoffman’s The World That We Knew, a novel exploring love and resistance amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, and Know My Name, Chanel Miller’s devastating but ultimately hopeful memoir of sexual assault and its aftermath, today were named winners of the2020 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction and nonfiction, respectively.
Christy Lefteri’s The Beekeeper of Aleppo, a powerful novel that puts a human face on the Syrian war by following the story of an immigrant beekeeper and his wife was named runner-up for fiction, while Jennifer Eberhardt’s Biased, which explores how unconscious bias shapes human behavior from the classroom to the courtroom was named runner-up for nonfiction.
Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium and runners-up receive $5,000.
Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. The Prize celebrates the power of literature to promote peace, social justice, and global understanding. This year's winners will be honored at a gala ceremony in Dayton on June 27, 2021.
“From racial bias to misogyny, this year’s winning books explored critical issues and events in an election year that could redefine the country” said Sharon Rab, Chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. “They show us how important our political choices are and how they can affect individuals all over the world.”
The 2020 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Fiction:
The World That We Knew (Simon & Schuster) by Alice Hoffman is a sweeping novel that follows three unforgettable young women in 1941 Berlin -- one of them a golem sworn to protect the youngest. In a world where evil and death lurk at every turn, we meet remarkable characters who take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, relying on their own courage and love to survive.
Hoffman’s statement on receiving the prize: “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 to be abandoned, ostracized, tortured, and murdered, as the result of being considered 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.”
The 2020 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in Nonfiction:
In Know My Name: A Memoir (Viking), Chanel Miller shares the full story of her trauma and recovery from a sexual assault on the Stanford campus in 2015. She turns the focus from the perpetrator, where such stories are often centered, to the critical but much less common work of revealing the truth of survivors, whose suffering is so often silenced and unseen. Miller’s unflinching, emotionally honest memoir is a testament to the power of words to heal and effect change.
On receiving the Prize, Miller said: “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.”
The 2020 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Runner-Up in Nonfiction:
In Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do (Penguin) Jennifer Eberhardt, a social psychologist and MacArthur “Genius” award recipient, presents her groundbreaking and often shocking research and data demonstrating how our unconscious biases powerfully shape our behavior, leading to racial disparities from the classroom to the courtroom to the boardroom. Showing that all people are vulnerable to racial bias, even if they are not racist, Eberhardt reminds us that racial bias is a human problem—one that all people can play a role in solving.
Eberhardt said: “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.”
The 2020 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Runner-Up in Fiction:
The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Ballantine) by Christy Lefteri is an unforgettable novel that puts human faces on the Syrian war with the immigrant story of a beekeeper and his wife. When war destroys their home and kills their son, the pair set out on an epic journey to Britain, encountering chaotically crowded refugee camps, life-threatening sea crossings, and smugglers eager to exploit them. Ringing with authenticity, this beautifully crafted novel reveals the triumph of spirit when the world becomes unrecognizable.
Lefteri said: “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 dehumanized people. It can awaken our emotions, make us focus on an individual so 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.”
Organizers previously announced that Margaret Atwood, the bestselling author (The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, and The MaddAddam Trilogy) whose critically acclaimed fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have offered prescient warnings about the political consequences of individual complacency, will receive the 2020 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, named in honor of the noted U.S. diplomat who helped negotiate the Dayton Peace Accords.
Winners were selected by a judging panel of prominent writers including Hua Hsu (staff writer at the New Yorker, author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific), Diane Roberts (Dreams, other work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, Flamingo, and Garden & Gun,former NPR commentator), Brando Skyhorse (The Madonnas of Echo Park and Take This Man: A Memoir), and Anne Fadiman (The Wine Lover’s Daughter: A Memoir, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, two essay collections, Ex Libris and At Large and At Small).
To be eligible for the 2020 awards, English-language books had to be published or translated into English in 2019 and address the theme of peace on a variety of levels, such as between individuals, among families and communities, or between nations, religions, or ethnic groups.
About the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
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 is recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious literary honors, and is the only literary peace prize awarded in the United States. Inspired by the Dayton Peace Accords, 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. One runner-up in each category is awarded a $5,000 cash prize. Additionally, the Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award is bestowed upon a writer whose body of work reflects the Prize's mission; previous honorees include Wendell Berry, Taylor Branch, Geraldine Brooks, Louise Erdrich, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, N. Scott Momaday, Tim O'Brien, Marilynne Robinson, Gloria Steinem, Studs Terkel, ColmTóibín, and Elie Wiesel. For more information visit the Dayton Literary Peace Prize media center at https://www.daytonliterarypeaceprize.org/press-room/.
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