Barbara Kingsolver, the American writer of The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna, has won a U.S. literary prize awarded to authors who use their literature to promote peace.

Formerly called the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award, the honour has been renamed the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, after the former ambassador who brokered the Dayton Accords that led to peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Founder Sharon Rab says the prize organization wanted to honour Holbrooke's international role in seeking peace and his special importance to Dayton, Ohio. The longtime U.S. diplomat died last December at age 69 following surgery on a torn aorta.

"I love that the organization is honouring this sort of higher value of literature to create empathy," Kingsolver said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"For the duration of a novel we are experiencing another person's life…the creation of empathy for the theoretical stranger can cultivate peace. You can't bang anyone over the head with a stick and make peace; you only do by convincing people that strangers' lives are valid and equal to their own; that's what literature does."

Past winners include Studs Terkel and Geraldine Brooks.

Kingsolver, 56, will receive the $10,000 US award on Nov. 13 from Holbrooke's widow, author-journalist Kati Marton.

She won the Orange Prize for fiction in 2010 for The Lacuna, the story of an American writer who runs afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee because he has been friendly with communist sympathizers in Mexico.

The Poisonwood Bible, a scathing satire of American missionaries in Africa, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer and the Orange Prize. It also won the national book award of South Africa.

Winners of the organization's annual fiction and nonfiction awards will be named at a later date.

With files from The Associated Press