The Moore Prize


The Moore Prize Winner 2017

Bad News by Anjan Sundaram

Ironically, Rwanda’s prisons and attempts at reconciliation were praised by Baz Dreisinger in her book discussed below. This book, however, provides an entirely different view of the country. The writer travels outside the capital, at great risk to himself, to discover scenes of devastation, huts with their roofs removed because they were considered primitive, children sick and old people untreated for malaria. This is not a hopeful book but it is an important one and is extremely well written.

Bad News is a very well written and gripping book exposing the dangers that journalists face in trying to report news in a dictatorship. As news reporting becomes ever more difficult, it shows how a climate of fear can gradually permeate everyone’s lives, destroying any attempts to tell the truth. Setting up a class to encourage local journalists, Sundaram describes how all his students end up being crushed by the system, either by giving in and writing pro-government propaganda or refusing and ending up in prison.

2017 Shortlist

The Morning the Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine di Giovanni

In May 2012, di Giovanni went back to Syria to see for herself what was beginning to unfold there. The result is a brave and shocking account of some of the atrocities that occurred at the beginning of the Syrian conflict. Using the technique of personal stories, whether of a doctor, a nun, a musician or a student, Janine captures our attention from the first page. Very well written, without any overt judgment, the book is a tour de force of war reportage. The Morning They Came for Us, through its ‘unflinching account of a nation on the brink of disintegration’, is a vital testament to an ongoing conflict. One of the problems of writing about the Middle East is trying to grapple with all the different groups and alliances. Janine skillfully avoids this to let her interviewees tell their devastating stories and illuminate the complexities of a terrible war. This creates a book that is eminently readable but ultimately shocking.

East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity by Philippe Sands

Philippe Sands skillfully interweaves his own journey into the past in search of his roots, with the account of two remarkable men who, separately from each other, developed world-changing legal concepts derived from the hitherto unimaginable atrocities of Hitler’s Third Reich. Both men, without meeting each other, studied at the same university in Lviv, which in the 20th century has been sometimes Polish, sometimes Russian and is now in the Ukraine. The book then moves back and forth across Europe as well as back and forth in time. The juxtaposition of Sands’ personal quest and that of the two lawyers: one, Hersch Lauterpacht, who became part of the British establishment, the other, Rafael Lemkin, who remained an outsider, is masterly.

Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World by Baz Dreisinger

The author, Baz Dreisinger, a professor, journalist and founder of the US-based Prison-to-College Pipeline, took a sabbatical leave to travel across the world from Africa to Asia and Europe, visiting prisons and talking with the inmates, examining their hopes for the future. One of the countries she visited was Thailand and her description of her visit to a model prison there was illuminating. As an American, she is constantly aware of how America has exported the harshest type of incarceration to the rest of the world.Unlike most books which look at the victims of human rights violations or atrocities, this book looks at what the world does with those who have committed crimes against others and shows that the situations of the perpetrators are in many ways not unlike those of the victims.

Blood on My Hands: Confessions of Staged Encounters by Kishalay Bhattacharjee

This was perhaps the most shocking book on the list. As the quote on the front of the book says: ‘If you are unaccounted for … you run the risk of being abducted and killed.’In this chilling account, an army officer, who remains anonymous, explains to Kishalay Bhattacharjee over a number of conversations how promotions and citations in the northeast border area of India and Bhutan are linked to obtaining a body count of so-called ‘insurgents’. Without the requisite number of bodies there is no promotion. The easiest victims are those seeking to escape a difficult life at home by crossing the border illegally; they will not be missed. Thus traffickers and army officers collude in an horrific business of planned murders.

2017 Judges

M. R. Narisa Chakrabongse

M. R. Narisa Chakrabongse is the founder and CEO of River Books and founder/director Bangkok Edge Ideas Festival. She has co-written several books on Thai history and is the founding president of the Green World Foundation, promoting awareness of environmental issues in schools.

Dr. Ma Thida

Dr. Ma Thida is a Burmese author, surgeon and former political prisoner. Her notable published works include The Sunflower, The Roadmap and Sanchaung, Insein, Harvard. She is the recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award and the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. Dr Ma was a fellow at Brown University and Harvard Universities. She is the president of PEN Myanmar.

Christopher G. Moore

Christopher G. Moore, a Canadian novelist and essayist, is founder of the Foundation. Moore is the author of the award-winning Vincent Calvino series and a number of literary novels and non-fiction books. His books have been translated into 13 languages.