What you need to know about Dayton Literary Peace Prize and this year’s prize-winning author


Colm Tóibín, Irish novelist, journalist and essayist, is the recipient of the 2017 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize committee announced today.

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Here is what you need to know about this distinguished author and this distinguished award that has put Dayton on the map as a promoter of peace through the written word.

Founded in 2006, right here in Dayton, this distinguished award is the only international literary peace prize awarded in all of the United States.

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The Dayton Literary Peace Prize was inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords signed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The agreement was momentous, as it ended the Bosnian War.

Richard C. Holbrooke was the U.S. Diplomat instrumental in the negotiation.

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Each year, the award honors an author’s entire body of work that “uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding,” according to the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Organization.

Tóibín’s stories of exile, reconciliation and political strife have done just that.



"Colm Tóibín's work invites readers to contemplate the deep sadness of exile — from mother or brother, from nation, from oneself — to understand how accidents of geography and family shape identity, and how quirks of circumstance can harden or soften hearts," said Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation.

Stories like Tóibín’s that contain somber, historical messages tend to be written in non-fiction style. However, Tóibín creates mainly fiction pieces, that are still able to capture the seriousness of accounts through his own interpretations and imagination, according to the award committee.

Born in Ireland in 1955, Colm Tóibín is widely recognized as one of today’s greatest living writers. His experiences as a gay man, an expatriate, and an international journalist have shaped his novels, which often explore themes of exile, homecoming and reconciliation, according to the award committee.

His works include:

"The Story of the Night," (1996) the story of a gay man coming of age in Argentina during the Falklands War.

The Blackwater Lightship (1999), about three generations of estranged Irish women coming together to care for a son who is dying of AIDS

The Master (2004), which explored the later life of Henry James, including his feelings of guilt and regret over his homosexuality

The Testament of Mary (2012)

Other notable works include the novels Brooklyn (2009), which was adapted into a 2015 film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and House of Names (2017), which explores how violence begets further acts of violence through a reimagination of the story of Clytemnestra.

Tóibín is also the author of several nonfiction works, including 1987's Bad Blood, which documents Tóibín's summer-long walk along the violence-plagued border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the 2002 essay collection Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar.


"Our aim is to reach the reader's imagination, have an effect on the nervous systems of other people … Through fiction, we learn to see others. The page is not a mirror. It is blank when I start to write, but it contains a version of the world when I finish," said Toibin in a statement upon winning the Holbrooke Prize.


Tóibín will be officially presented with the award and a monetary prize of $10,000 on Nov. 5 at the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Gala at Dayton’s Schuster Performing Arts Center.

Finalists for the 2017 fiction and non-fiction Dayton Literary Peace Prize will be announced on Sept. 13, 2017.


Past winners of the Holbrooke include:

  • Studs Terkel (2006)
  • Elie Wiesel (2007)
  • Taylor Branch (2008)
  • Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (2009)
  • Geraldine Brooks (2010)
  • Barbara Kingsolver (2011)
  • Tim O'Brien (2012)
  • Wendell Berry (2013)
  • Louise Erdrich (2014)
  • Gloria Steinem (2015)
  • Marilynne Robinson (2016)

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