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Contact: Jeannine Cuevas Stronach
Tel. (415) 777-1628

Authors Jones and Whitty paint the South Pacific as a troubled paradise

SAN FRANCISCO (April 1, 2008) - Pacific Rim Voices announces today the honorees for the 12th annual Kiriyama Prize. New Zealand author Lloyd Jones' novel, Mister Pip (Text Publishing, Australia; Knopf Canada; Penguin, New Zealand; John Murray, UK; Dial, USA) , is this year's fiction winner; The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific by Julia Whitty (Houghton, USA) is the winner in nonfiction. The US $30,000 cash prize will be divided equally between the fiction and nonfiction winners. The Prize is presented by Pacific Rim Voices, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating literature that contributes to greater understanding of and among the peoples and nations of the Pacific Rim and South Asia.

In The Fragile Edge, Julia Whitty takes us under the surface of the South Pacific and shows us "a world that feels purely and extravagantly sensual yet exists mostly outside our own sensory realm." Whitty infects us with her love for this corner of the ocean and warmly introduces us to the tenacious people who live along its delicate shores.  She also sounds a clear warning. “Coral reefs are powerful arbiters of life both in the sea and on the land,” Whitty writes. “The oceans they help stock are the chemical engine driving the planet... This water world, and its most fertile and fragile edge, the coral reefs, are the continuing cradle of life on earth.” The Fragile Edge is a paean to the seas that makes us yearn to keep them safe, not only for the wildlife and people who live near or in it, but for us all.

Julia Whitty is an environmental correspondent for Mother Jones magazine and a former documentary filmmaker.  Whitty's previous book, a collection of fictional short stories, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Lloyd Jones' Mister Pip is set on the South Pacific island of Bougainville, during the island's bloody secessionist clash with Papua New Guinea in the 1990's. (Thousands of Bougainvilleans died in the long conflict, which was sparked by disputes over land ownership and environmental damage in connection with a copper mine on the island.) Mister Pip's considerable charm lies with its endearing narrator, a teenage Bougainvillean girl named Matilda.  Matilda becomes enthralled with the exotic world in Great Expectations when the only white man left on the island — the kind and enigmatic Mr. Watts — reads the Dickens's classic with the children of her village after all teachers evacuate the island.  Jones' language is beautiful, but the story—like the history of the island itself—takes a dark turn as the cruel realities of war make escape through literature alone impossible.

Lloyd Jones is the New Zealand-born author of several critically acclaimed novels and short-story collections.  Mister Pip was also a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

Kiriyama Prize Manager Jeannine Cuevas Stronach remarked about this year's awardees:  "It is often too easy for those of us who live in large and populous countries to discount the people and cultures of humbler nations.  Mister Pip and The Fragile Edge make the compelling argument that one small island is the whole universe to the people who live there. In total harmony with the aim of the Prize, this year's highest honors go to two books that will draw some attention not to some Pacific Rim superpower, but to less discussed, but nevertheless important, parts of the region."

Full reviews of the winners and other finalists for this year's Kiriyama Prize, together with a conversation with the Prize judges can be found on the Prize's companion website,

Photos of the winning authors are available on request from Prize Manager, Jeannine Cuevas-Stronach:

Along with the eventual winner, the 2008 Kiriyama Prize fiction finalists included The Complete Stories by David Malouf (Pantheon); The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (Houghton Mifflin); Mosquito by Roma Tearne (HarperCollins Canada; and forthcoming from Europa Editions, USA); and I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen, translated by Julia Lovell (Columbia University Press/hardcover edition; Penguin Books USA, paperback).

The other 2008 finalists for nonfiction were The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam by Tom Bissell (Pantheon), East Wind Melts the Ice by Liza Dalby (University of California Press), India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha (Ecco/HarperCollins), The Talented Women of the Zhang Family by Susan Mann (University of California Press).

Also today, Pacific Rim Voices announced the 2008 Kiriyama Prize Notable Books. The list of 6 fiction and 9 nonfiction works follows the body of this release.

One year later, the bestselling 2007 nonfiction winner, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's Three Cups of Tea, One Man's Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time (Penguin Books), continues to challenge readers to think about how to create peace in a time of war.  Other past finalists and winners of the Kiriyama Prize include Sherman Alexie, Monica Ali, Peter Carey, Kiran Desai, Carlos Fuentes, Amitav Ghosh, Shirley Hazzard, Peter Hessler, Ha Jin, Suketu Mehta, Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje, Ruth Ozeki, Andrew X. Pham, Kerri Sakamoto, Manil Suri, Madeleine Thien, Pascal Khoo Thwe, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Simon Winchester, Tim Winton, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka.

The Kiriyama Prize is awarded annually in recognition of outstanding books that promote greater understanding of and among the nations of the Pacific Rim and of South Asia.  Authors from anywhere in the world are eligible, provided that their work is written in English or translated into English, and that it relates to the nations of the Pacific Rim or South Asia in a significant way. Pacific Rim Voices, sponsor of the Kiriyama Prize, continues to develop a family of projects celebrating literature from and about the Pacific Rim and South Asia.  For more information about the Prize and the 2008 winners and finalists, visit or contact Jeannine Cuevas-Stronach, Prize Manager, at 415/777-1628 or via email

The judges for this year's fiction Prize were Alan Cheuse, Pam Chun, Abby Pollak (chair), Judy Stoffman, and Madeleine Thien.  The nonfiction panelists were Bridget Boylan, Janet Brown, Sally Ito (chair), Alma Lee, and Joanne Sandstrom.

2008 Kiriyama Prize Notable Books


  • My South Seas Sleeping Beauty by Guixing Zhang, translated by Valerie Jaffee (Columbia University Press)
  • Bird of Another Heaven by James D. Houston (Knopf)
  • Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt (Bloomsbury)
  • God of Luck by Ruthanne Lum McCunn (Soho)
  • The Ocean in the Closet by Yuko Tanigushi (Coffee House Press)
  • The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux (Houghton Mifflin)
  • The Assassin's Song by M. G. Vassanji (Doubleday Canada; Knopf USA)

  • The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture by Tim Bowling (Nightwood Editions, Canada)
  • Hapa Girl: A Memoir by May-lee Chai (Temple University Press)
  • Earth in Flower by Paul Cravath (DatAsia)
  • Revolution of Hope: The Life, Faith, and Dreams of a Mexican President by Vicente Fox and Rob Allyn (Viking)
  • China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford (Random House)
  • Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China by Kang Zhenguo, translated by Susan Wilf (W.W. Norton)
  • The Thorn of Lion City by Lucy Lum (Perseus)
  • The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie (Simon & Schuster)
  • Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen (Penguin)
  • Under the Dragon: California's New Culture by Lonny Shavelson and Fred Setterberg (Heyday Books)
  • Brother One Cell: An American Coming of Age in South Korea's Prisons by Cullen Thomas (Penguin)
  • Beijing Confidential: A Tale of Comrades Lost and Found by Jan Wong (Doubleday Canada)

Notable Children's Books

  • Hiromi's Hands written and illustrated by Lynne Barasch (Lee & Low)
  • Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe, illustrated by Richard Waldrep (Lee & Low)

(end of release)


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