The Christopher G. Moore Foundation is delighted to announce the 2023 winner of their seventh annual literary prize honouring books that feature human rights themes.
Belly Woman: Birth, Blood & Ebola - The Untold Story by Benjamin Black (Neem Tree Press) has been chosen as the best book with a human rights theme, published between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023.
The 2023 jury, comprised of Dr Jackie Dugard, senior lecturer of Human Rights at Columbia University; Roja Fazaeli, Professor in Law and Islamic Studies, University of Galway; and human rights barrister, academic, author and broadcaster, Geoffrey Robertson, KC, were unanimous in their choice.
Belly Woman is a unique work combining investigative reporting and advocacy. A young doctor’s harrowing account of his experience in helping pregnant women give birth during an Ebola epidemic and Covid-19 pandemic. His book is set in Sierra Leone, 2014-2020. In 2014, when the author arrived, Sierra Leone was ranked the country with the highest death rate of pregnant women in the world. Dr. Black was forced to make impossible decisions on the maternity ward, facing moral dilemmas in the treatment centres , Belly Woman shines a light on an important story that has rarely surfaced on the literary radar screen.
Author Benjamin Oren Black is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in London and a specialist advisor to international aid organisations. Benjamin also teaches medical teams around the world on improving sexual and reproductive healthcare to the most vulnerable people in the most challenging of circumstances.
The Jury commented: “The winner, Belly Woman, was an extraordinary book on many levels. In telling the story of the Ebola and Covid crises in Sierra Leone, Black wrote in a moving way about its victims, highlighting the voices of women, giving them agency. Their stories were interwoven to powerfully illustrate how a doctor in the field can practice medicine in ways that guide the advancement of global health and human rights. On a different level, he also showed the disparities between the global north and south through a human rights lens, reminding us that these health crises are not a new phenomenon, and that the international community has repeatedly been incapable of protecting human rights.”
Faced with a record number of high quality submissions and a remarkable shortlist, the Jury would like to recognise the other final contenders for the prize.
An Honourable Mention goes to Antony Loewenstein for The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World (Verso Books). Loewenstein’s exposé documents the role of Israel’s military-industrial complex in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where they tested weaponry and surveillance technology. Having shown live data as to effectiveness, they exported this technology around the world, to despots and democracies alike. It is an important and powerful piece of on the ground reporting combined with extensive research about the world’s most dangerous region.
The Jury and the Moore Foundation Trustees would also like to recognise a remarkable book, written by a 12-year-old refugee from Ukraine, with a Special Prize for Young Authors: You Don’t Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine by Yeva Skalietska (Bloomsbury Children’s Books).
Yeva’s moving diary, written daily as she lived through the first 12 days after the Russian invasion, poignantly illustrates how the war changed her young life forever. Writing for children her own age, Yeva’s book exhibits a maturity of thought and writing ability that is far beyond her years, displaying compelling insight into what conflict is like through the eyes of a child. It is a story the world needs to hear and is essential reading for adults and older children alike.
The Jury said: “We are delighted to recognise Yeva’s extraordinary book by awarding this Special Prize for Young Writers. Her story is universal, one that applies as much to Gaza or any war, as it does to what’s happening in Ukraine. It is an extremely poignant, relevant book, written in a way that personalises the conflict – as Yeva and her family faced the terror of fleeing and sheltering from the bombing. We enter her world from a child’s point of view, a world of school, friends and family. You Don’t Know What War Is is a book that should be read and discussed by anyone who is interested in understanding the personal cost of current or future conflicts.”
Foundation Founder, Christopher G. Moore says: “The quality of submissions for the Prize was very high this year. The judges faced a challenging task to choose a winning title. The human rights books on the shortlist ranged from the Sierra Leone and Israel, to Ukraine and the Amazon rainforest, with books about climate change, war, refugees and human trafficking. The three books we honour this year will broaden your understanding about the state of millions of people around the world who find their lives and liberty in jeopardy. Each one of them details the emotional struggle people face in their struggle to survive some of the worst human conditions: slavery, torture, disease and corruption. If you value freedom of thought, movement or security, you will gain from reading these books.”
The Moore Prize was established in 2015 to provide funds and recognition to authors who, through their work, contribute to the universality of human rights and to give a platform to human rights issues that are important in our current societies. This unique initiative is awarded annually, as chosen by a panel of judges whose own work focuses on human rights.
The winning book will be announced on Wednesday, January 10th 2024. The winner of the Moore Prize will receive £1000. The winner of the Special Prize for Young Authors will receive £500.