Renowned authors gather in Dayton for literary peace prizes

Weekend program includes Gloria Steinem interviewing author Margaret Atwood.

“Writers are limited in their range – in what they are able to write about – whereas readers are not. Readers can read across the whole sweep of human experience – as far back in the past as they can see, as far afield as they can reach, as far into the future as it is possible to imagine. The closer we are to a person, the psychiatrists tell us, the harder it is to actually murder them. Perhaps that is the way in which reading is conducive to peace: it brings us closer together. If I feel I know you, understand you, and like you, why would I wish to make war on you? That, at any rate, is our hope. We could certainly use a little hope, right about now.”

--Margaret Atwood, 2020-21 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award

An international group of notable authors will head for the Miami Valley next weekend when one of the world’s most coveted literary prizes will be awarded to nine individuals whose books promote peace.

It hasn’t been easy but the folks who present the prestigious awards were determined to find innovative ways to grow and to expand their organization, despite COVID challenges.

On Saturday, as a precursor to Sunday’s formal sold-out Dayton Literary Peace Prize ceremony, a community program entitled “A Conversation with the Authors” will take place at the Victoria Theatre.

For the first time in the history of the awards, audiences can enjoy a double-header. Because the live event could not be held last year due to the pandemic, the awards for both 2020 and 2021 will be presented. The Saturday event at the Victoria Theatre replaces the traditional Saturday night/Sunday morning presentations by the winners.

The first portion of the afternoon will be devoted to a panel discussion moderated by Gilbert King, the 2013 Nonfiction Runner-up for “Devil in the Grove,” and a member of the DLPP Honorary Advisory Board. Joining him on stage will be seven of the nine winners and runners-up from the past two years.

After a brief intermission, Gloria Steinem, 2015 winner of the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, will interview the 2020-21 Holbrooke winner, Margaret Atwood. The Holbrooke honor recognizes lifetime achievement.



“To have Margaret Atwood being interviewed on the Victoria Stage by Gloria Steinem right here in Dayton, Ohio, is really incredible!” says Nicholas Raines, the Dayton native who assumed the role of full-time executive director for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation in September.

Tickets at a wide variety of price levels are still available for the Saturday event. The official award presentation, minus the usual on-stage dinner, will take place at a sold-out event at the Schuster Center on Sunday, Nov. 14.

Who is being honored?

Although no official “theme,” is ever prescribed in a given year, a common thread does sometimes emerge after the winning books have been selected. For 2021, for example, the fiction and non-fiction winners relate to World War II. They are:

  • Alexander Starritt’s “We Germans,” a novel written in the form of a letter from a German soldier to his grandson, and Ariana Neumann’s “When Time Stopped,” a family memoir uncovering the secrets of how her late father survived the Holocaust.

  • The runners-up for 2021 are “The Mountains Sing, " by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, a sweeping tale of a Vietnamese family told by a matriarch who lived through the Vietnam War and “Road from Raqqa,” Jordan Ritter Conn’s harrowing story of the road to reunion for two Syrian brothers.

The winning books being honored for 2020 include:

  • Alice Hoffman’s “The World That We Know,” a novel exploring love and resistance amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, and “Know My Name,” Chanel Miller’s hopeful memoir of sexual assault and its aftermath.

  • Christy Lefteri’s “The Beekeeper of Aleppo,” a novel that puts a human face on the Syrian war by following the story of an immigrant beekeeper and his wife is the 2020 runner-up for fiction, while Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Biased,” which explores how unconscious bias shapes human behavior from the classroom to the courtroom, is the nonfiction runner-up.

Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium and runners-up receive $5,000. Only Hoffman and Lefteri are unable to come to Dayton for the presentation.

Travel a challenge

Since the inception of the Prize, DLPP Award winning authors have represented 24 countries. Raines says because five of the nine individuals being honored next week are international, travel was a major hurdle. At the time initial arrangements were first being discussed, there were travel restrictions in place for those entering the United States from other nations.

“We began working closely with Congressman Mike Turner to request exceptions from the state department,” explains Raines. “Luckily, we found out on Oct. 15 that as of Nov. 1, the borders were being opened.”

Three of the authors coming to Dayton this week are coming from London, others will arrive from Canada, and The Kyrgyz Republic.

Growth and expansion

DLPP founder and board president Sharon Rab says her organization has found new ways to expand its reach over the past two challenging years.

“During the time of Covid, the DLPP established a free virtual book club that meets monthly to read books from our former and current winners, runners-up and finalists,” Rab explains. “Our choices can stem from the list of winning books and from books published by the authors before and after they became part of the DLPP family of writers.”

Ron Rollins, former editor of “Ideas and Voices” for the “Dayton Daily News,” serves as moderator for the evening sessions.

Rab says members are all ages and join from across the country: New York, Baltimore, Mansfield, Cincinnati, Tipp City and beyond. “Some have chosen and have read the book or are attending to learn if they want to read the book,” she says. “Some drop in periodically. Our book club has created a real sense of community for folks who are brought together by their love of reading and books and the idea of peace.”

Rab says when we read a book and feel a sense of empathy for another person, we begin to recognize that person as human. “And then the other two components of peace fall into place: justice and enlightenment,” she says.

“Turn the Page” is another important initiative. For those virtual sessions, two authors who’ve written on similar themes are paired and author Gilbert King serves as moderator. “Our previous events reflect the issues of diversity, culture, war and peace that are the basis of so many of our winning books,” Rab says. Topics have ranged from “The American Dream” and The Legacy of War” to “Land, Loss and Memory.”

Rab’s hope for the future is that DLPP, which has been run primarily by volunteers and a part-time staffer for the past 16 years, will continue to grow and expand --more staff, more educational outreach. “I hope that we continue to grow locally, nationally and internationally.”

Raines says the DLPP Is now known throughout the literary world. “When we call authors now and tell them they have won, you’d think they’d won an Oscar! They are blown away!”


What: Dayton Literary Peace Prize: A Conversation with the Authors

When: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13

Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton

Tickets: $20-$150, available for purchase at or call (937) 228-3630.

For more information visit


ALSO: Books&Co will be selling books on the second floor of the Victoria Theatre in the Reception Room before and after the event. There will be no book signing, but the authors have been asked to sign book plates that will be available for books purchased on Saturday.

Safety requirements: Dayton Live Covid policies at all events require that all attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination at the door and wear a mask throughout the event. You’ll be asked to stay seated unless you are using the facilities or buying books.

RELATED PROGRAMMING: Those interested in joining the virtual book club can view a list of previously discussed books on the DLPP website under the heading “Get Involved.” ( Scroll down to Book Club or see the promotion on the Home Page.) To sign up, contact Emily Kretzer at

The Turn the Page events are ticketed through Eventbrite, with options for attending for free or with a donation. Sponsors are always needed.

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