‘History can use the help of a ‘good read’ to generate enthusiasm among young people’
The first annual Grateful American Book Prize was officially awarded to author Kathy Cannon Wiechman for her work of historical fiction, Like a River: A Civil War Novel, at a ceremony held at President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC on October 22, 2015.
David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Prize, has called the work “a page-turner about the plight of a pair of teens caught up in the conflict between the states. It brings home the essence of what the war was all about and is bound to quickly engage readers, particularly young readers. It’s an exemplar of what the Prize is all about—to encourage authors and publishers to produce fiction and nonfiction that accurately depict the past as a means of showing young readers that history is not quite as boring as they may have thought.”
Dr. Bruce Cole, the former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, inspired Smith to pursue the establishment of the Prize. Cole, who is also co-founder of the award, has described the U.S. as “a country of historical amnesiacs.” He believes that the Prize will give publishers, established authors and those just getting started an important focus on readable books about American history. “History can use the help of a ‘good read’ to generate enthusiasm among young people.”
Author Wiechman agreed. “My passion for US History came during my school years, not from history class, but from reading biographies and historical fiction, books that made history come alive. When I write, my goal is to make history live and breathe for today’s readers the way it does for me. Having Like a River honored by this inaugural award gives me hope that I can accomplish that goal.”
Weichman’s Prize comes with a cash award of $13,000 representing the original 13 colonies. Wiechman will also receive a medallion created for the occasion by Smith’s mother, artist Clarice Smith.
Two additional authors were also acknowledged by the panel with Honorable Mention Certificates: Darlene Beck Jacobson’s novel, Wheels of Change, which confronts Washington DC’s racial turbulence during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, and Michaela MacColl’s, The Revelation of Louisa May, a deftly appealing combination of actual events and history culled from the life of Louisa May Alcott.
The judges of 2015 consisted of co-founders Smith and Cole as well as Dr. Rod Paige, former U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO, New-York Historical Society, Dr. Douglas Bradburn, author, historian and Founding Director of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, and John Danielson, founder of Chartwell Education Group and former Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education.