Vietnamese author wins Dayton Literary Peace Prize

By Dang Khoa   September 26, 2021 | 09:00 pm PT
Nguyen Phan Que Mai's debut novel 'The Mountains Sing' has won the runner-up prize at the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize in the U.S.

The book is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and tells an enveloping tale of the Tran family as seen through the eyes of matriarch Tran Dieu Lan and her granddaughter, Huong.

As Huong comes of age, Lan teaches her what it takes to survive and live with compassion.

"The Mountains Sing is my yearning for peace, for human compassion, for forgiveness, for hope, and for humans to love humans more," Mai is quoted as saying in the contest website.

"I echo my call for peace in the form of this novel, through the words of my character Huong: 'Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth.'"

Nguyen Phan Que Mai with her book The Mountains Sing. Photo courtesy of Mais Facebook

Nguyen Phan Que Mai with her book 'The Mountains Sing'. Photo courtesy of Mai's Facebook

Her book beat off several other strong contenders, including Louise Erdrich’s ‘Night Watchman,’ winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and Douglas Stuart’s 'Shuggie Bain,' the 2021 Booker Prize winner for fiction.

Scottish-German novelist Alexander Starritt's 'We Germans' claimed the top prize in the fiction category.

As the runner-up, Mai will receive $5,000.

Her book will be honored at a gala in November in Dayton, Ohio, alongside other finalists this year and last year.

Mai, who has a PhD in creative writing from Lancaster University in the U.K., is the author of eight books in Vietnamese covering the gamut from poetry to non-fiction, and she has been translated and published in more than 15 countries.

The Mountains Sing, also her first English work, also won a Lannan Literary Awards Fellowship for contribution to peace and reconciliation and the BookBrowse Best Debut Award for 2020.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize aims to celebrate the power of literature in promoting peace, social justice and global understanding.

go to top