Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University are pleased to announce the three winners and the three finalists of the 2016 Lukas Prize Project Awards.
The awards will be presented to the winners and finalists at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.
The following are the winners and finalists for each prize and excerpts from the jurors’ citations.
Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000)
The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize recognizes superb examples of nonfiction writing that exemplify the literary grace, the commitment to serious research, and the social concern 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 and must have been published between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015.
Susan Southard, an author and theater director, has won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for her unflinching historical narrative of the bombing of Nagasaki and the aftermath as told through the lives of those who survived it – “NAGASAKI: Life After Nuclear War” (Viking Penguin). In their citation the judges state “with lean and powerful prose she describes the indescribable taking the reader almost minute by minute through the bombing of Nagasaki and then the aftermath. With thorough careful research she exposes a half-century of lies and half-truths about the reasons for the bombing and the results, even denying that radiation poisoning was real.” Susan Southard holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and was a nonfiction fellow at the Norman Mailer Center in Provincetown, Mass. “NAGASAKI” was a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award in 2012. Southard lives in Tempe, Ariz., where she is the founder and artistic director of Essential Theatre.
Reporter Dale Russakoff is the finalist for the Lukas Book Prize for “THE PRIZE: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), which the judges called “a searing portrait of the enormous challenges of ‘saving our schools.’’ Russakoff spent 28 years as a reporter for The Washington Post, covering politics, education, social policy, and other topics.
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, 2015, and December 31, 2015.
Nikolaus Wachsmann, a professor of modern European history at Birkbeck College, London and an award-winning author, will receive the Mark Lynton History Prize for his definitive history of the German concentration camp system – “KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The judges write “KL” is “a staggering feat of research, synthesis and narrative writing… Wachsmann’s greatest achievement is to make the inconceivable palpable. Drawing on thousands of Nazi records and first-person accounts, he lets the victims, and sometimes their victimizers, describe in their own words scene after scene of unimaginable suffering. Rarely has anyone combined history from above with history from below to such powerful effect.” Wachsmann is the author of the prize-winning “Hitler’s Prisons” and joint editor of “Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany: The New Histories.”
Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University and an award-winning author, is the finalist for the Lynton History Prize for “BLACK EARTH: The Holocaust as History and Warning” (Tim Duggan Books), which the judges cited for its “bold provocative new approach to the Holocaust…Snyder takes the focus off death camps like Auschwitz to explore the Germans’ lesser-known, earlier mass murder of millions of Jews in occupied Poland and the Soviet Union.”
Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award ($30,000)
The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award is given annually to aid in the completion of a significant work of nonfiction on an American topic of political or social concern. The committee envisions the award as a way of closing the gap between the time and money an author has and the time and money that finishing a book requires.
Steve Luxenberg, an associate editor at The Washington Post (on leave) and author, has won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for his book about the infamous Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson that gave rise to half a century of racial discrimination – “SEPARATE: A Story of Race, Ambition and the Battle That Brought Legal Segregation to America” (W.W. Norton). The judges write in their citation “Luxenberg finds answers by looking long and hard at the lives and beliefs of those who were swept up in this landmark case, beginning with the three main characters: Justice Henry Billings, who wrote the majority opinion; Justice John Marshall Harlan, one of two Southerners on the Court, who wrote the lone dissent; and white civil rights advocate Albion Tourgée, who designed the legal strategy for Plessy. Their story and the parts played by a large supporting cast are the heart of ‘SEPARATE,’ this rich, complex, and all too human story, replete with ironies and unintended consequences.”
Journalist and editor Blaire Briody is the finalist for the Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for her work “THE NEW WILD WEST: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown” (St. Martin’s Press), a first-hand account of the impact of the fracking boom on a small town that the judges called “hard hitting and unblinking.” Briody is an award-winning journalist and editor-at-large for The Fiscal Times.
About the Prizes
Established in 1998, the Lukas Prize Project honors the best in American nonfiction writing. Co-administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, and sponsored by the family of the late Mark Lynton, a historian and senior executive at the firm Hunter Douglas in the Netherlands, the Lukas Prize Project presents three awards annually.