Margaret Atwood, the author of amazing works like the Handmaid’s Tale, is this year’s winner of a lifetime achievement award. The award celebrates literature’s power to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. The Canadian writer and teacher has earned the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, officials of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize officials announced Monday.
Atwood is a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, comic books. As of late, certain tweets have drawn a new round of acclaim for her bestselling 1985 novel of a dystopian future in which women are subjugated after an overthrow of the U.S. government.
Sharon Rab, the founder, and chairwoman of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation praised Atwood for popular success with writing that also educates people about pressing social justice and environmental issues. “Margaret Atwood continues to remind us that ‘It can’t happen here’ cannot be depended upon; anything can happen anywhere given the right circumstances, and right now, with scorn for democratic institutions on the rise, her lessons are more vital than ever,” she said.
While not all books are conducive to peace and understanding, Atwood said, fiction can help people “learn what it is to be a person different from ourselves, so that might cause you to have more empathy with people who aren’t exactly like you.” She published her first book of poetry, Double Persephone, in 1961, and her other books have included Cat’s Eye (1988), Alias Grace (1996), The Blind Assassin (2000), and The MaddAddam Trilogy (2003-2013). The Testaments, her 2019 sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, quickly joined her bestsellers.
The Dayton lifetime achievement award carries a $10,000 prize. The awards gathering originally planned for October is being rescheduled for spring 2021 because of pandemic precautions. Atwood will be joined by the 2020 winners of awards for fiction and nonfiction; finalists for those will be announced next month.