Dayton award nominees: Abani, Alarcón, Díaz and more


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The Dayton Literary Peace Prize has announced the finalists for its third round of awards. The prize: $10,000 each to two books, one fiction and nonfiction, that promote peace, leading readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions and political points of view.

Chris Abani’s ‘Song for Night’ is among the fiction selections; the novella tells the story of a West African boy soldier. A native Nigerian, Abani now lives in Southern California; he writes poetry and fiction and teaches at UC Riverside. At the TED conference earlier this year, Abani said:


My search is always to find ways to chronicle, to share and to document stories about people, just everyday people, stories that offer transformation that lean into transcendence, but that are never sentimental, that never look away from the darkest things about us. I really believe that we’re never more beautiful than when we’re most ugly. That’s really the moment we really know what we’re made of.

Daniel Alarcón’s ‘Lost City Radio,’ focusing on the disappeared in a nameless South American country emerging from civil war, was an L.A. Times best book of the year in 2007. It is Alarcón’s first novel; Peruvian by birth, raised in Alabama, schooled in New York and Iowa, he now teaches at UC Berkeley. last year, he told the LA Weekly:

If you’re a writer, you believe there are certain things that fiction can accomplish that can only be accomplished in fiction. There are certain things that movies can’t do, that music can’t do, certain things that Web sites can’t do, radio can’t do. If you believe that, then you’re a writer.... I think that a novel is the closest you can get to walking in someone else’s shoes, both as an artist and as a consumer of that art. I think of art, all of art, as running around the question of what it means to be alive now. A novel allows a reader to commune with other people’s experiences in a really intense, really real way, and I don’t think that other media can do that exactly in that same way.

Both writers are up against prize-winning favorite Junot Diaz; his novel ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Morning News Tournament of Books and too many other accolades to mention.

The complete nominee list is after the jump.

— Carolyn Kellogg


  • ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ by Junot Díaz
  • ‘Coal Black Horse’ by Robert Olmstead
  • ‘Lost City Radio’ by Daniel Alarcón
  • ‘The Ocean in the Closet’ by Yoko Taniguchi
  • ‘Song for Night’ by Chris Abani


  • ‘Acts of Faith’ by Eboo Patel
  • ‘Are We Rome?’ by Cullen Murphy
  • ‘Break Through’ by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus
  • ‘Brother, I Am Dying’ by Edwidge Danticat
  • ‘Fragile Edge’ by Julia Whitty