Chris Stevenson, a lawyer from Tippecanoe County, IN, is the winner of the 2016 Grateful American Book Prize for his first novel, The Drum of Destiny, a work of fact-based historical fiction published by Capstone.
“Chris epitomizes the spirit of this award,” Prize co-founder David Bruce Smith said. “His newfound passion for history as an adult made him realize how much he had missed while in school and that is the whole point of the Prize.”
Smith, an author and publisher, teamed up with Dr. Bruce Cole, the former Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities to create the Grateful American Book Prize last year. Their purpose was to encourage authors and publishers to produce more works of historical fiction and non-fiction for young readers– books that engage and leave them wanting to learn more about America’s past. “It’s a way to help them grow up to become responsible and knowledgeable citizens,” noted Smith.
Three additional authors and their books will also be acknowledged at the event with Honorable Mention Certificates, Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols for their novel, Freedom’s Price, and Laura Amy Schlitz for her work of historical fiction, The Hired Girl. It is the second year in a row that Ms. MacColl has been recognized for her authorship. She won Honorable Mention in 2015 for The Revelation of Louisa May.
Prize winner Stevenson has a diversity of interests. He lives with his wife, Debbie, and their five boys on a 40 acre working farm complete with goats, sheep, horses, and chickens in the town of Clarks Hill, IN. He has a love of flying his own plane and he is a successful attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Wilson Kehoe Winingham.
As a young learner, Stevenson was bored in history class, but years later on his daily hour and a half commute to and from his office in the city, he got into the habit of listening to audio books about the American Revolution. He soon developed a passion for the War of Independence that he wanted to pass on to his sons.
He wanted to share his love of that period in American history with his boys and so he began making up bedtime stories about a fictitious 12-year-old orphan by the name of Gabriel Cooper who, ultimately became the inspiration for and the protagonist of The Drum of Destiny.
He says that he drew directly upon the published memoir of John Greenwood who, in 1775, volunteered to fight for his country at the age of 16, to create the character of Gabriel Cooper. Greenwood’s extraordinary account of his services during the Revolutionary War is contained in a memoir edited and published by his grandson Isaac J. Greenwood, The Revolutionary services of John Greenwood of Boston and New York, 1775-1783.
“My goal in writing The Drum of Destiny was to make history interesting for kids. I’m so pleased that those associated with the Grateful American Book Prize share this same vision of getting our youth hooked on history. It is truly an honor to have my first book recognized by such an amazing group of judges. I love sharing the story of our country’s foundations and the men who fought and led us into freedom. I want today’s youth to understand what the American Revolution means to them and to know that the freedoms we enjoy must never be taken for granted. The Grateful American Book Prize is a wonderful way to show the world that history still matters. I’m honored to be this year’s recipient.”
The Prize, which will be presented to Stevenson at a ceremony to be held at the Library of Congress on October 6, comes with a cash award of $13,000 representing the original 13 colonies. In addition, the winner receives a medal created for the occasion by Mr. Smith’s mother, the noted artist Clarice Smith.
In addition to Cole and Smith, the 2016 Panel of Judges for the Prize includes Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO, New-York Historical Society; Dr. Peter S. Carmichael, Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies & Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College; John Gray, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History; Neme Alperstein, a teacher of Gifted and Talented Students in the New York City Public School system since 1987; 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, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Education Management Corporation.
“We’re honored Drum of Destiny is being recognized for its excellence in storytelling by the Grateful American Book Prize. Author Chris Stevenson has crafted a rich tale of historical detail and adventure. Readers follow a young protagonist on his journey through war during a pivotal time in American history,” said Ashley Andersen Zantop, Capstone Chief Content Officer.