Viet Thanh Nguyen has won the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction with his compelling debut novel, The Sympathizer, while Susan Southard takes home the honor in the non-fiction category for her powerful Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War. (Runners up included James Hannahams’ fictional novel of addiction and love, Delicious Foods, and Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner Odede’s autobiographical love story Find Me Unafraid.)
Founded in 2006, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is “the first and only U. S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace.” It is a literary offshoot of the Dayton Peace Prize, named after the 1995 peace accords that brought about an end to the Bosnian War.
Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation, said about this year’s winners, “This year’s winners remind us that the effects of war reverberate many years and often many generations after treaties are signed. Together, these stories by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Susan Southard offer cautionary tales but also guideposts to lead us toward a greater understanding of those who are originally seen as enemies.”
The Sympathizer, which has already won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as numerous other awards, is a novel of espionage and love, which tells the story of a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles while secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam.
Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War takes readers from the morning of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in WWII to the city today, telling the first-hand experiences of five survivors, all of whom were teenagers at the time of the devastation. Author Susan Southard weaves together these dramatic eyewitness accounts with searing analysis of the policies of censorship and denial that colored much of what was reported about the bombing both in the United States and Japan.
Additionally, author Marilynne Robinson was awarded the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award (formerly known as the Lifetime Achievement Award) in recognition of her complete body of work. Some of her works include Lila, a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Gilead, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Home, winner of the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a finalist for the National Book Award. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Iowa City.
The awards will be presented in a ceremony on November 20, 2016 in Dayton, Ohio. Congratulations to Mr. Nguyen, Ms. Southard, and Ms. Robinson.