Ta-Nehisi Coates and Hala Alyan Earn Dayton Literary Peace Prize

By Sameer Rao Sep 19, 2018

Jurors recognized a Palestinian-American poet’s debut novel about a Palestinian family’s generational displacement, and an African-American journalist’s reflections on the presidency of Barack Obama, with this year’s Dayton Literary Peace Prize

The Associated Press reports today (September 19) that Hala Alyan‘s "Salt Houses" and Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ "We Were Eight Years in Power" earned this year’s prizes for fiction and nonfiction, respectively. An announcement notes that the prize began with inspiration from the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords and recognizes literature that "promote[s] peace, social justice and global understanding."

This year’s runner ups include Min Jin Lee‘s "Pachinko," about a Korean family’s journey after immigrating to Japan, and Michelle Kuo‘s "Reading with Patrick," which chronicles the author’s evolving connection to a Black student she taught at an impoverished Arkansas school. 

"This year’s winners and runners-up remind us just how much individual lives are shaped by broader political circumstances—and how abruptly those circumstances can change," Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation founder and co-chair Sharon Rab says in the announcement. "From Alyan’s portrait of characters repeatedly displaced by an age-old conflict to Coates’s incisive analysis of the modern U.S. presidency, these books help us view politics through both an emotional and an intellectual lens, strengthening our empathy while sharpening our powers of political perception."