Columbia Journalism School Announces the 2022 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards Shortlists
Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University are pleased to announce the 2022 shortlists for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, and the Mark Lynton History Prize. The Lukas Prizes, established in 1998, honor the best in American nonfiction writing.
The winners and finalists of the 2022 Lukas Prizes will be announced on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards (two winners each receive $25,000)
The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards are given annually to aid in the completion of significant works of nonfiction on American topics of political or social concern. These awards assist in closing the gap between the time and money an author has and the time and money that finishing a book requires.
Roxanna Asgarian, We Were Once a Family: The Hart Murder-Suicide and the System Failing Our Kids (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
We Were Once A Family: The Hart Murder-Suicide and the System Failing Our Kids explores the deeper story behind the white couple who drove themselves and their six Black adopted children off a California cliff to their deaths in 2018. The book focuses on the birth families of the children spanning generations, and illuminates how the failures of America’s child welfare system contributed to the tragedy. It will be published in 2023.
Robert Fieseler, American Scare: A Cold War in the Sunshine State (Dutton)
American Scare: A Cold War in the Sunshine State uncovers a largely unknown anti-Communist purge in the segregated South. From 1956 to 1965, residents of Florida were held for ransom by an extrajudicial committee with the power to investigate “subversion” by entering residences without warrants, employing secret informants, seeking medical records, and imposing penalties without bringing charges. It was an all-out domestic war headed by a charismatic state senator named Charley Johns. Called the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, but more commonly known as the “Johns Committee,” this group of white lawmakers led a Cold War crusade. Ostensibly targeting Communists attempting to integrate schools and destroy the American family, the Johns Committee in practice hunted civil rights workers and closeted gay teachers as enemies of the people. It is a true story of American tyranny.
Benjamin Herold, Disillusioned: How the Suburbs and Their Schools Undermine The American Dream (Penguin Press)
The nation’s foundational promises — everyone is created equal, we all get a fair shot, success is determined by merit — are considered to be strongest in the suburbs and their public schools. Disillusioned: How the Suburbs and Their Schools Undermine the American Dream destroys that myth. Author Benjamin Herold traces the stories of five American families whose hopes for the future are colliding with suburbia’s racist past. Herold describes a relentless cycle of racialized development and decline that now threatens many suburbs — including his hometown, where white families like his own extracted opportunity from the school system, then fled before the bill came due, leaving a new generation of mostly Black parents to pay off a staggering debt. Drawn from years of reporting and archival research, this portrait of America at a turning point shows why suburban public schools are ground zero in the fight for a true multiracial democracy.
May Jeong, The Life: Sex, Work, and Love in America (Atria)
The Life: Sex, Work, and Love in America examines the forces shaping sex work and the lives of sex workers, and how these forces interact with race, gender, and class. Jeong explores the limitations of our criminal system when it deals with prostitution and sex trafficking, often criminalizing those who are victims as much as they are breakers of unjust laws. Investigating the various paths taken to sex work, Jeong shows how those in “the life” are often trapped in a cycle that punishes them for the crime of poverty and other misfortunes. Based on the deeply reported life stories of several sex workers, The Life probes the injustices, indignities, and redemptions they experience, and lays bare the intersections of sexuality, power, labor, and immigration.
Suki Kim, The Prince and the Revolutionary: Children of War (W.W. Norton)
The Prince and the Revolutionary: Children of War follows the author’s search for a young North Korean named Kim Han-sol, who vanished following the 2017 assassination of his father, Kim Jong-un’s half brother, at Kuala Lumpur Airport. Her investigation sheds light on the history of the Kim family members who were banished, killed, and disappeared, and brings the author face to face with Adrian Hong, the leader of the North Korean opposition. It is a story of assassination, rescue, and betrayal involving a gulag nation, a group of revolutionaries, and U.S. intelligence. A narrative portrait of a missing prince from North Korea and the underground movement trying to topple the Great Leader regime, this book is at heart an indictment of war and its consequences for the next generations as well an examination of the complicity surrounding North Korea, one of the most urgent political and humanitarian crises of our time.
2022 J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award Judges: Rachel Louise Snyder (chair), Paul Golob, David Treuer
J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000)
The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize recognizes superb examples of nonfiction writing that exemplify the literary grace, commitment to serious research, and original reporting that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s namesake, J. Anthony Lukas. Books must be on a topic of American political or social concern published between January 1 and December 31, 2021.
Andrea Elliott, Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City (Random House)
In Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City, Pulitzer Prize winner Andrea Elliott follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani, a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn homeless shelter. Elliott weaves the story of Dasani’s childhood with the history of her ancestors, tracing their passage from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, New York City’s homeless crisis has exploded, deepening the chasm between rich and poor. She must guide her siblings through a world riddled by hunger, violence, racism, drug addiction, and the threat of foster care. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter “to protect those who I love.” When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family?
Scott Ellsworth, The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice (Dutton)
The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice tells the long-suppressed story of the notorious Tulsa race massacre. It also unearths the lost history of how the massacre was covered up, and of the courageous individuals who fought to keep the story alive. Most importantly, it recounts the ongoing archeological saga and the search for the unmarked graves of the victims of the massacre, and of the fight to win restitution for the survivors and their families. Both a forgotten chronicle from the nation’s past and a story ripped from today’s headlines, The Ground Breaking is a page-turning reflection on how we, as Americans, must wrestle with the parts of our history that have been buried for far too long.
Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (Doubleday)
A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty is a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early 20th century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d’Antibes, to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. It chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability. Exhaustively documented and compelling, Empire of Pain is a portrait of the excesses of America’s second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super elite, and a relentless investigation of the naked greed and indifference to human suffering that built one of the world’s great fortunes.
Jessica Nordell, The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias (Metropolitan)
The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias is a deeply reported exploration into the far-reaching destructive effects of unconscious bias, one of the great challenges of our age, as well as a groundbreaking study of methods and interventions that have measurably succeeded in uprooting unintentional discrimination. Unconscious bias exists, to corrosive and even lethal effect, in medicine, the workplace, education, policing, and beyond. But when it comes to uprooting our prejudices, we still have far to go. With nuance, compassion, and ten years’ immersion in the topic, Jessica Nordell weaves gripping stories with scientific research to reveal how minds, hearts, and behaviors change. Captivating, direct, and transformative, The End of Bias shows that biased behavior can change; the approaches outlined here show how we can begin to remake ourselves and our world more equitably.
Joshua Prager, The Family Roe: An American Story (W.W. Norton)
A masterpiece of reporting on the Supreme Court’s most divisive case, Roe v. Wade, and the unknown lives at its heart, The Family Roe: An American Story was one of NPR’s Best Books of 2021, one of Time’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2021, and a New York Times Notable Book. Journalist Joshua Prager tells the story of abortion in America through Norma McCorvey, the complex woman behind the pseudonym Jane Roe. Prager discovered her personal papers, witnessed her final moments, and found her children, among them the unknown “Roe baby” whose conception occasioned the lawsuit. The book confronts a half-century of propaganda and myth, and abounds in revelations. Embraced by people on both sides of the abortion issue, The Family Roe is a work of profound empathy that will change the way readers think about America’s enduring divide.
2022 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Judges: Bruce Tracy (chair), Jessica Bruder, Julia Pastore, Thomas Chatterton Williams
Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000)
The Mark Lynton History Prize is awarded to the book-length work of narrative history, on any subject, that best combines intellectual distinction with felicity of expression. Books must have been published between January 1 and December 31, 2021.
Katie Booth, The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness (Simon & Schuster)
The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness provides a new perspective on an American icon, revealing the astonishing true genesis of the telephone and its connection to another, far more disturbing legacy of Alexander Graham Bell’s: his efforts to suppress American Sign Language. Weaving together a dazzling tale of innovation with a moving love story, the book offers a heartbreaking account of how a champion can become an adversary and an enthralling depiction of the deaf community’s fight to reclaim a once-forbidden language. Booth witnessed the damaging impact of Bell’s legacy on her own family, leading her to spend more than 15 years poring over Bell’s papers, Library of Congress archives, and the records of schools for the deaf across America. What she discovered overturned everything she thought she knew about language, power, deafness, and the telephone.
Noah Feldman, The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Abraham Lincoln led the nation into a bloody civil war to uphold the system of government established by the U.S. Constitution — a system he regarded as the “last best hope of mankind.” But how did Lincoln understand the Constitution? The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America is the first book to tell the story of how Lincoln broke the Constitution in order to remake it. To do so, it offers a riveting narrative of his constitutional choices and how he made them — and places Lincoln in the rich context of thinking of the time, from African American abolitionists to Lincoln’s Republican rivals and Secessionist ideologues.
Amanda Frost, You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers (Beacon Press)
Citizenship is invaluable, yet our status as citizens is always at risk — even for those born on U.S. soil. Over the last two centuries, the U.S. government has revoked citizenship to cast out its unwanted, suppress dissent, and deny civil rights to all considered “un-American” — whether due to their race, ethnicity, marriage partner, or beliefs. In You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers, law professor Amanda Frost exposes a hidden history of discrimination and xenophobia that continues to this day. You Are Not American grapples with what it means to be American and the issues surrounding membership, identity, belonging, and exclusion that still occupy and divide the nation in the 21st century.
Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (Random House)
In 1850s South Carolina, an enslaved woman named Rose faced the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag with a few precious items for Ashley. Later, her great-granddaughter Ruth embroidered the family history on the bag in spare yet haunting language — including Rose’s wish that “It be filled with my Love always.” Ruth’s sewn words evoke a sweeping family story of loss and love passed down through generations. Now, in All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, historian Tiya Miles carefully unearths these women’s faint presence in archival records to follow the paths of their lives — and the lives of so many women like them — to write a singular and revelatory history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States.
Jane Rogoyska, Surviving Katyń: Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth (Oneworld/ Simon & Schuster)
The Katyń Massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war is a crime to which there are no witnesses, committed in utmost secrecy in April-May 1940 by the Soviet Union’s interior ministry, NKVD, on the direct orders of Joseph Stalin. For nearly 50 years the Soviet regime succeeded in maintaining the fiction that Katyń was a Nazi atrocity, the story unchallenged by Western governments fearful of upsetting a powerful wartime ally and Cold War adversary. Surviving Katyń: Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth explores the decades-long search for answers, focusing on the experience of those individuals with the most at stake — the few survivors of the massacre and the Polish wartime forensic investigators — whose quest for the truth in the face of an inscrutable and utterly ruthless enemy came at great personal cost.
2022 Mark Lynton History Prize Judges: Julia Keller (chair), Anthony DePalma, Kerri Greenidge
Read the full announcement, including authors’ bios and more information on this year’s nominees.