Margaret Atwood, the iconic Canadian author whose body of work includes The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace, was announced as the winner of the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award last Monday. This award celebrates the ability of literature to promote peace and justice globally.
Atwood’s most well-known novel, the aforementioned The Handmaid’s Tale, concerns America becoming a Totalitarian Dystopia, where women’s rights are stripped away by a theocratic government, and fertile women are forced to bear children for men and their wives. The novel has become more popular over the last few years with a Hulu adaptation starring Elizabeth Moss. However, Atwood has faith that Americans can avoid this fate. She told a reporter for the Associated Press: “And if I were a betting person, which naturally I kind of am, I would bet on American orneriness and refusal to line up…So I don’t think you’re going to get people marching in lockstep easily…You could get it. but it would be hard.”
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Sharon Rab, the founder of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation, praised Atwood’s work for educating people on important topics like social justice. Speaking to the Associated Press, she said: “Margaret Atwood continues to remind us that ‘it can’t happen here’ cannot be depended upon; anything can happen anywhere given the right circumstances…her lessons are more vital than ever.”
The award comes with $10,000 (A little over 13,000 CAD). Previous winners include feminist Gloria Steinem and holocaust survivor and novelist Elie Wiesel. The ceremony, to be originally held in October, will be held in Spring 2021 due to COVID-19. Atwood will be joined by winners of the fiction and nonfiction categories, which have yet to be announced.