The award, established in 2006, honors writers “whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding.”
The entire list of fiction finalists for the prize is:
- “Say You’re One of Them” by Uwen Akpan (Little, Brown & Company): A Nigerian-born Jesuit priest, Akpan humanizes the perils of poverty and violence facing children in Africa in this stunning collection of five short stories.
- “Peace” by Richard Bausch (Random House): Set among American soldiers in Italy during World War Two, Peace is a compelling meditation on the moral dimensions of warfare.
- “The Plague of Doves” by Louise Erdrich (Harper Collins): A violent act of racism haunts generations of Native American and white families living in rural North Dakota.
- “Beijing Coma” by Ma Jian (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): Emerging from a coma caused by a bullet during the Tiananmen Square protests ten year earlier, a man recounts the horrors of the Mao era and senses the massive changes under way in China.
- “Telex From Cuba” by Rachel Kushner (Scribner): The story of American executives and their families driven out of Cuba in 1958, Kushner’s powerful debut novel is a riveting exploration of colonialism, corporate America, and revolution.
- “Song Yet Sung” by James McBride (Penguin Group): The haunting story of a runaway slave and a determined slave-catcher in pre-Civil War Maryland, “Song Yet Sung” explores both the moral choices faced by both blacks and whites and the meaning of freedom.
Non-fiction finalists are:
- “Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization” by Nicholson Baker
- “Dust from our Eyes: An Unblinkered Look at Africa” by Joan Baxter
- “Hot, Flat and Crowded” by Thomas Friedman
- “Writing in the Dark” by David Grossman
- “My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Father’s Past” by Ariel Sabar
- “A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern Day Slavery” by Benjamin Skinner
- “The Great Experiment” by Strobe Talbott
In addition, organizers announced that the husband-wife writing team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have received the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement. They were honored for their work chronicling human rights in Asia, Africa and the developing world.