Judging the Dayton Literary Peace Prize

As was recently announced online, I am one of two judges for the final round of the nonfiction category of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. It is an incredible honor to serve this noble cause, and an immense pleasure to read the six finalists. Following is the list from the press release. Winners will be announced September 30.

  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: From one of the country’s most visionary legal thinkers, social justice advocates, and MacArthur “geniuses,” this is an intimate and unforgettable narrative journey into the broken American criminal justice system, an exquisitely rendered account of a heroic advocate’s fights on behalf of the most powerless people in our society.
  • No Man’s Land by Elizabeth D. Samet: This book offers a moving, urgent examination of what it means to negotiate the tensions between soldier and civilian, between war and peace, between “over there” and “over here”—between life on the front and life at home.
  • The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson: This is the haunting account of a first passionate and then abusive relationship, the events leading to Johnson’s kidnapping and imprisonment, her dramatic escape, and her hard-fought struggle to recover, raising timely questions about gender roles and the epidemic of violence against women.
  • The Short And Tragic Life Of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs: Written by his college roommate, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is the brilliant, deeply-researched account of the life of Robert DeShaun Peace, a talented young African-American man who left the ghettos of Newark, New Jersey, on a full scholarship to Yale University, but who was tragically murdered in a basement marijuana lab after he graduated.
  • There Was And There Was Not by Meline Toumani: Frustrated by the all-consuming nature of her close-knit Armenian community’s quest for genocide recognition by Turkey, Toumani moved to Istanbul; this account of her “love thine enemy” experiment probes universal questions: how to belong to a community without conforming to it, how to acknowledge a tragedy without exploiting it, and, most important, how to remember a genocide without perpetuating the kind of hatred that makes such atrocities possible in the first place.
  • Who We Be by Jeff Chang: This book explores the changing (and unchanging) ways that the U.S. has viewed race over the past half-century, asking whether or not in the eras of “multicultural” and “post-racial” cultures if we really see each other more clearly.
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