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Tippecanoe students interview Dayton Literary Peace Prize-winning author

Tippecanoe High School Students Briana Smith, Madeline Gold, JQ Lee, and Lauren Anderson in the WYSO studios.
Tippecanoe High School Students Briana Smith, Madeline Gold, JQ Lee and Lauren Anderson in the WYSO studios.

This week on Dayton Youth Radio we'll listen to an interview with Dayton Literary Peace Prize Fiction category Winner Brad Kessler and students from Tippecanoe High School.

Basim Blunt: Brad Kessler, the author of the novel North stopped by Tippecanoe High School in October and was interviewed by Dayton Youth Radio. Students Briana Smith, Madeline Gold, JQ Lee, and Lauren Anderson. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

Brianna Smith: I'm Briana Smith, a junior at Tippecanoe High School. How has winning the Dayton Literary Peace Prize affected you?

Brad Kessler: Winning the Dayton Literary Peace Prize is a great honor. I mean, who else would have thought about the idea of marrying literature with the notion of peace? And I think it's a testament to this part of Ohio. It's now considered a top award for writers all over the country and the world.

 Madeline Gould: I'm Madeline Gold, a junior at Tippecanoe High School. Are there any experiences from your childhood that made you want to write this book?

Brad Kessler: Maybe not so much for my childhood, but later in my sort of young adulthood. I was a journalist and I was living briefly in Cairo, Egypt. And it was a time of turmoil, especially in Somalia, which is in North Africa, not far from Egypt. I went to the embassy in Cairo where hundreds of Somali refugees, people who had fled the war and were trying to get a passport or trying to get a visa to get into the United States. And just seeing hundreds of people with no home on the streets in a foreign country trying to get into the American embassy. And I, as an American, I had my American passport and was able to just sort of wave it to the guards. And I got ushered in while everybody was other people couldn't get in. And that just had a very profound impact on who's let in and who's let out and who's not let in and how lucky we are as Americans of where we live and how. What does that blue passport mean to us and what does it mean to people who don't have it?

Jianqaio Li:  I'm Jianqaio Li, a sophomore at Tippecanoe High School. So what message about war will you try to convey through Sahro's experience in Somalia?

Brad Kessler: War is bad. War is not a good thing. People are being displaced. It's going to happen and it's going to happen more increasingly so. This book was an attempt, I think, for me to deal with the fact of what's happening in the world and the grief of it, and also what you do about it as an individual. We can act. And I think with the monk who lives alone on the mountaintop, you'd think that he's praying for the world. That's the object. That's what monks say they are doing. And my question in the book was, is that enough? That's the dynamic that plays out in the novel between Father Christopher and his community. And that's a very old duality that happens with monks and in the church. Are you a Martha or are you a Mary? As the parable, has it. Is it good enough to gaze upon, you know, your maker or in this case, Jesus, or do you have to provide the food for him?

Lauren Anderson I'm Lauren Anderson, a sophomore at Tippecanoe High School. What do you recommend for other people in your community to do for immigrants so that they can feel more welcome?

Brad Kessler: Well, I think the first thing is to learn about other cultures and learn about where these folks come from. You know, maybe even learn a word, you know, one word. Whether it's hello or whether it's. Thank you. Something as small as that little gesture really means something to a person coming from a different place, in a different culture. Something a small gesture like that is a way to start, I think, seeing and embracing the other people who come from elsewhere.

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