WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
9 Sep 2010 | News

WOLA Announces Winner of the 2010 WOLA-Duke Book Award

"Hostage Nation: Colombia's Guerrilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs," written by Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes and Jorge Enrique Botero, has won the third annual WOLA-Duke Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America, WOLA and Duke University announced today.

The authors of the winning book will speak at a public event at WOLA on Wednesday, September 8th at 12:30pm, and will also be honored at WOLA's upcoming Benefit Gala on October 26th at the Organization of American States. They will also receive an invitation to give a reading at Duke University in Durham, NC, where they will be presented with the $1000 cash award.

WOLA, a human rights research and advocacy group established in 1974, and Duke University created the prize to honor the best current, non-fiction book published in English on human rights, democracy and social justice in contemporary Latin America.

"Hostage Nation," published last month by Alfred A. Knopf, is the story behind three American contractors and Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt held hostage by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) for over five years before their rescue in 2008. The book draws on Botero's exclusive interviews of the American contractors and extensive research on the FARC and the Colombian drug trade to illustrate the impact of Colombia's war and the US war on drugs in Colombia.

The four judges in this year's competition were:

Holly Ackerman, Librarian for Latin America and Iberia, Duke University

Roger Atwood, Writer and former Communications Director, WOLA

Leonor Blum, Associate Professor, History and Political Science, College of Notre Dame of Maryland

Robin Kirk, Director, Duke Human Rights Center, Duke University

The judges' unanimous praise for "Hostage Nation" focused on the deft research and the balanced and nuanced treatment of the complex actors in the hostage drama, along with the ability of the authors to explain the broader context of Colombia's war in which the drama unfolded.

Atwood extolled the book's "compassionate account of Colombia's war and its horrible cost in human lives" in which "the authors tell an entertaining story of captivity, despair and finally liberation." The authors' great achievement, Atwood said, was in showing how "the hostage drama played out in a wider context of impunity and bad government policy."  

"The book is an inspirational collaborative project of research and writing that illustrates the difficult process by which human rights advocates gather information as well as the real dangers journalists face when attempting to gather the facts," Ackerman said.

Kirk praised the book for bringing new readers into a "complex Latin American reality in an engaging, informed and nuanced way" noting that the authors deserve recognition for the "crisply written and quite even handed account, neither demonizing the guerrillas nor making heroes of their captives." 

The WOLA-Duke Book Award aims to draw the general public's attention to good writing on contemporary Latin America. Francisco Goldman won the first award for his book "The Art of Political Murder." Heraldo Muñoz's "The Dictator's Shadow" was last year's winner.

The judges thank the many authors, publishers and readers who nominated books. Rules and deadlines for the next edition of the award will be announced later this year. 


Luke Horner, WOLA
[email protected]
(202) 797 2171

Ilene Nelson, Duke University
[email protected]
(919) 660 5816