WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
6 Mar 2014 | News

WOLA and Duke University Present the 2013 Human Rights Book Award to Jonathan M. Katz

Press Release

Washington, D.C.— On Wednesday March 12, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Duke University will present the 2013 WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award to Jonathan M. Katz for his critically acclaimed novel, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

“The WOLA-Duke Book Award is an opportunity to celebrate inspiring authors that draw attention to critical issues facing Latin America. The Big Truck That Went By offers incredible lessons for organizations that provide humanitarian aid in the face of disaster,” said WOLA Executive Director Joy Olson. “Jonathan manages to distill his deep understanding of Haiti and the problems there into a vivid, gripping narrative. It’s an honor to present him with this year’s award.”

Katz was a correspondent for the Associated Press on January 12, 2010, when the deadliest earthquake ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere struck the island nation of Haiti. The Big Truck That Went By recounts Katz’s personal experience when the earthquake hit, and—drawing on his groundbreaking reporting during the period that followed—traces the relief response that poured in from the international community and where those efforts went tremendously wrong.

“I’m tremendously honored to receive this award. It’s gratifying that the judges recognized the story of Haiti’s twin disasters of earthquake and response in the contexts of human rights and the wider Latin American experience,”said Katz. “It can be easy to think about the ongoing traumas in many Haitians’ lives as unpleasant but alien problems that well-intentioned people might someday address. What I found far more often in my years reporting and writing this book was the ongoing denial and fouling-up of basic rights for some of our closest neighbors, in whose affairs we have been directly intertwined for many years. It’s been a privilege to tell that story.”

Judge Robin Kirk, co-chair of the Duke University Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, added that “Katz is able to sketch engaging, moving portraits of the people he met and the challenges they face with a great deal of skill.”

The award will be presented at WOLA, followed by a reading and discussion with the author. For more event details or to RSVP, please click here.

About the Award: 
Started in 2008, the WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award is a joint venture of Duke University and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. The award honors the best current, non-fiction book published in English on human rights, democracy, and social justice in contemporary Latin America. The books are evaluated by a panel of expert judges drawn from academia, journalism, and public policy circles. The 2013 judging panel included:

Holly Ackerman, Librarian for Latin America and Iberia, Duke University
Roger Atwood, Journalist, Author, and Former Communications Director, WOLA
Leonor Blum, WOLA Board Member and Professor Emerita, History and Political Science, Notre Dame of Maryland University
Robin Kirk, Faculty Co-Chair, Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University
Kathryn Sikkink, Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota

Previous WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award recipients include: Héctor Abad for Oblivion: A Memoir in 2012; Katherine Sikkink for The Justice Cascade in 2011; Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes, with Jorge Enrique Botero for Hostage Nation in 2010; Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz for The Dictator’s Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet in 2009; and Francisco Goldman for The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? in 2008.



Jessamine Bartley-Matthews, WOLA
[email protected]

Patrick Stawski, Duke University Libraries
[email protected]