Wilbert Rideau, author and former editor of The Angolite prison magazine, has been awarded the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction for his memoir In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance.
Room 220 had the pleasure of interviewing Rideau this summer.
The Dayton prize was launched in 2006 to focus attention on the power of the written word and to promote peace and understanding. The awards commemorate the 1995 Dayton Peace accords, which brough the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina to an end. Previous winners have included Junot Díaz for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying, Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women, and Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun, which tells the harrowing and heartening tail of a New Orleans resident caught in the double snares of post-Katrina flooding and the United States’ War on Terror.
Rideau’s memoir recounts the 44 years he spent in Angola Prison and the lessons he learned there. He had this to say upon winning the award:
No one is more mindful than I am of the long journey I traveled to become an advocate for peace, and to have my writing recognized as serving that end is the ultimate honor. I am a witness for the power of the written word. I know first-hand that reading is transformative. I know that books can inspire people to be better than they are, to aim higher than they thought they could ever go, to create opportunity where none was apparent, to find hope in the bleakest of circumstances, and to discover their own humanity. If my memoir can help one person find a more peaceable path through life, I will consider it a success.