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October 6, 2020

Dear Readers,

It is that exciting time of year for our readers when the Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalists are announced. Our 78 first readers have winnowed the nominations down to six books in each category and have determined which of the very fine nominations best fit our dual criteria of high literary quality and a strong connection to the concept of peace. This year’s finalists again take us around the world: Turkey, Syria, Vichy France, and Ireland. Through these stories, both fiction and nonfiction, we are forced to see adult sins and failures through the eyes of the young at home and abroad: outcasts, immigrants, refugees. We identify with young people who are struggling to survive in Jim Crow reform schools, hiding from Nazis in Vichy France, struggling through the brutalities of the U.S. court system, surviving as orphans during the struggles in Ireland. As readers, we are also faced with our own biases, the shootings of innocents in churches, and the difficulties of surviving in a society that no longer makes sense.

But in all cases, we see the strength of friendship superimposed over the failings of government. We also see examples of government triumphing over hatred as in the story of Our Man Richard Holbrooke—and here in Dayton, we have a special claim on him as “Our Man.” These books show us that we have work to do as individuals and as a society, but we also see that friendship and determination to work for peace can and will help us mend our society and ourselves.

We hope you are still expanding your horizons while sheltering at home. These current finalists will serve you well.

Be well, stay safe, read books.

Sharon-sig BOT 530x38

Our Finalists - Fiction

2020 finalists shafak f

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 minutes 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.

2020 finalists luiselli f

Lost Children Archive 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.

2020 finalists lefteri f

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 in an unrecognizable world. Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, says: “A beautifully crafted novel of international significance that has the capacity to open our eyes.”

2020 finalists whitehead f

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.

2020 finalists hoffman f

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.

2020 finalists ruffin f

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.


Our Finalists - Nonfiction

2020 finalists eberhardt nf

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.

2020 finalists berry hawes nf

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. Dylann 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.

2020 finalists miller nf

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, Miller’s exquisite memoir is a testament to the power of words to heal and effect change.

2020 finalists packer nf

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 that 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.

2020 finalists radden keefe nf

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 a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with.

2020 finalists forche nf

What You Have Heard is True by Carolyn Forché, 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.

Read the full press release here.


Join our virtual book club October 21

atwood w handmaids tale

Please join us for the next Dayton Literary Peace Prize Virtual Book Club on Wednesday, October 21, at 7:00 EST. Ron Rollins, recently retired editor of Ideas and Voices for the Dayton Daily News, is the host. October's featured book is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the 2020 recipient of the DLPP Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the publication of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic now in its 4th season as a television series on Hulu. Atwood insists that The Handmaid’s Tale is not science fiction, but it tells the story of Offred in the new regime in an oppressive parallel America of the future. This article in the New York Times is an interview with Atwood on whether her dystopian classic is meant as a “feminist” novel, as antireligion or as a prediction.

If you are interested in joining the book club, please contact Emily Kretzer.


Turn the Page November 16

The Legacy of War

2009 finalists bausch f w
Gilbert King moderator
Andrew Krivak 2012

More than a book club, Turn the Page becomes an agent for change, an evolution in thought brought about by a conversation with authors who have their fingers on the pulse of history, so therefore insight in the human heart. Each segment will bring two of our winning authors together to discuss a subject their works have in common. Gilbert King, a DLPP Honorary Advisory Board member, the 2013 DLPP Runner-up for The Devil in the Grove and the Pulitzer Prize winner for the same title, will moderate the sessions.

The second Turn the Page event scheduled for November 16, at 7:00 EST will feature a conversation between Richard Bausch, the 2009 Fiction Winner for Peace, a novel set in the mountains of Italy with U.S. troops during World War II, and Andrew Krivak, the 2012 Fiction Winner for The Sojourn, set in those same mountains during World War I with a young man from Colorado who is a sharp shooter in the Kaiser’s Army. Both writers used family stories of war as the basis of their books and the springboards for their imagination. Richard’s book has been made into a film entitled Recon that will debut in theatres on November 10 and will be streamed beginning November 13. He will also discuss the experience of having his work translated to film.

Register here to join us!


The DLPP’s 15th annual gala event is Sunday, June 27, 2021.

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