The 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Winners Reflect The Impact Of 20th Century Conflicts

Are you loving book award season? The 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners have just been announced, and the books honored reflect the impact of 20th century conflicts on life today. Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, took home the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction, and Susan Southard's Lukas Book Prize-winner, Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War, swept the nonfiction category.

Established in 2006 as an offshoot of the Dayton Peace Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only award given in the U.S. to honor "writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding." Each year, one fiction writer and one nonfiction writer each receive a $10,000 cash prize for work that "advances peace as a solution to conflict, and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view."

A third prize, the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, is given annually to honor "a writer whose body of work reflects the Prize's mission." This year, Gilead author Marilynne Robinson joins Louise Erdrich, Wendell Berry, Geraldine Brooks, Barbara Kingsolver, Gloria Steinem, and Elie Wiesel, among others, as a Holbrooke Award winner.

The Sympathizer has been the literary fiction title in everyone's hands this year. Nguyen's debut novel examines the legacy of the Vietnam War through the post-war life of its protagonist, a Viet Cong spy. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, The Sympathizer won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Of his win, Nguyen says:

Nagasaki might not be quite as familiar to most readers as the other nonfiction finalists on the Dayton shortlist below, but it should not be overlooked. Southard combines more than a decade's worth of interviews with survivors and experts to paint a powerful portrait of the impact of nuclear war on Japan and the world at large.

Here's what Southard had to say about winning the Dayton:

Dayton Literary Peace Prize judges Alexander Chee (The Queen of the Night), Christine Schutt (All Souls), Rubén Martinez (Desert America: A Journey Across Our Most Divided Landscape), and Evelyn McDonnell (Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways) named Nguyen and Southard the winners of the 2016 awards. This year's runners-up were James Hannaham's Delicious Foods and Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner's Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum.

In addition to the runners-up, Nguyen and Southard beat out eight other titles to win the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The finalists were:

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman
  • Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
  • Youngblood by Matt Gallagher
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America by Wil Haygood
  • The Reason You Walk: A Memoir by Wab Kinew
  • The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell

The 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners will be honored at a gala ceremony on Nov. 20. Emmy Award-winner and Cincinnati Journalism Hall of Fame inductee Nick Clooney will preside over the festivities.

Images: Courtesy of BeBe Jacobs; Courtesy of Gina Santi Photography