Barbara Kingsolver has been named the recipient of the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award for 2011.
The award, first given in 2006 to celebrate the power of literature to promote peace, was originally called the Dayton Literary Peace Prize’s lifetime achievement award. It was inspired by the Dayton peace accords on Bosnia brokered by Holbrooke in 1995 negotiations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near the southwest Ohio city.
Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award
Now it has been renamed in honor of the late ambassador, and Kingsolver will receive the award in Dayton on November 13. It carries a $10,000 prize; the peace prize group is supported by a combination of corporations, schools, groups that promote the arts, and private donors.
Founder Sharon Rab says that the prize organization wanted to honor Holbrooke’s international role in seeking peace and his special importance to Dayton. The longtime U.S. diplomat died last December at age 69 following surgery on his torn aorta.
“I love that the organization is honoring this sort of higher value of literature to create empathy,” Kingsolver told The Associated Press. “For the duration of a novel we are experiencing another person’s life … the creation of empathy for the theoretical stranger can cultivate peace. You can’t bang anyone over the head with a stick and make peace; you only do by convincing people that strangers’ lives are valid and equal to their own; that’s what literature does.”
Kingsolver “Astonished And Very Happy”
The author said she was “astonished and very happy” to join previous winners who are “like a partial list of my heroes.” They include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, the late Chicago-based author Studs Terkel, and Taylor Branch, who chronicled the civil rights struggle.
Kingsolver’s award-winning novel The Poisonwood Bible, about an American family set in post-colonial Africa, is probably her best-known work and is a work of genius.
The Genius Of Barbara Kingsolver
But there is so much more! As a writer, I first found inspiration in Kingsolver’s early fiction, particularly in the visionary and magical nature writing of The Bean Trees and Animal Dreams. With these books, she entered the ranks of our top fiction writers.
Yes, Barbara Kingsolver is a brilliant writer, but for me she reveals her expertise most fully in her nonfiction. From High Tide In Tucson, I learned the art of essay writing, and felt that I was kneeling at the feet of a master. Later came Small Wonder, published in 2002, with its essay, “And Our Flag Was Still There,” providing a remarkably perceptive view of September 11, 2001, written not long after that tragic day.
Since then the author has also written about organic farming and other related topics, reflecting the fact that since June 2004, Kingsolver and her family have lived on a farm in southern Appalachia. She believes her best work is accomplished through writing, raising her children, and being an active citizen of her own community.
Holbrooke’s Widow Applauds Kingsolver
Holbrooke’s widow, author-journalist Kati Marton, called the award a very special tribute to him.
As first reported by The Associated Press, she said Tuesday she was pleased about the winner, whose writing she said reflected his belief in “humanism and the perfectibility of mankind. There’s a deep optimism in her work, which is absolutely appropriate. Until his last breath, he was an optimist. He did not believe that any war was inevitable.”
Heartfelt congratulations to Barbara Kingsolver, a literary and humanitarian hero!
Photo Credit: mikebaird via Creative Commons