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Dayton Literary Peace Prize Prize Marks 15th Anniversary

By Scott N. West

Do you know about the Dayton Literary Peace Prize? This international award was established in 2006 to commemorate Dayton’s role as host of the agreement that ended the Bosnian war of the early 1990s. The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina became better known as the Dayton Accords. This prize remains the only literary award focused on the role of literature in promoting peace in the world.

Each year a winner and runner-up are identified in both fiction and nonfiction. The finalists in each category also receive recognition. The very first winners were A Changed Man by Francine Prose (fiction) and Shockwave: Countdown to  Hiroshima by Stephen Walker (nonfiction). Since that time the prize has included an extraordinary list of authors.

2021 Honorees

This year’s prizes were awarded to:

The other finalists were:

  • The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michele Harper
  • Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
  • Deacon King Kong by James McBride
  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
  • See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur
  • Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
  • Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

Erdrich (one of my favorite writers) won the Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award in 2014 and has had several books nominated for the prize. Wilkerson is also a veteran nominee as her book The Warmth of Other Suns was the nonfiction runner-up in 2011.

Adjudication: An effort across the community

Library faculty and staff from the University of Dayton have served as readers for many years.  In 2020, three first readers — Bridget Retzloff, Kayla Harris and Zachary Lewis — shared highlights from the adjudication process; archivist Amy Rohmiller also was a first reader that year.

Stop in and pick one out

The entire run of winners, runners-up and finalists for this prize are easily available in Roesch Library.  While this is, in some sense, an archive of the award, it is intended to circulate.  These books and their special power to contribute to the improvement of the world is wasted unless they are in readers’ hands. The books can be found on the shelves in the foyer at Roesch Library.

— Scott N. West is a collections specialist in the University Libraries.

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