Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard are pleased to announce the three winners and the three finalists of the 2017 Lukas Prize Project Awards. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.
2017 Lukas Prizes Winners & Finalists
The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize
- WINNER: Gary Younge, editor-at-large for The Guardian and an Alfred Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute, has won for ANOTHER DAY IN THE DEATH OF AMERICA: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives (Nation Books), which tells the stories of the lives of children and teens lost during a single day to gun violence.
- FINALIST: Zachary Roth, a former national reporter for MSNBC, for THE GREAT SUPPRESSION: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy (Crown), which exposes how a deliberate, multi-faceted campaign to undermine American democracy and limit the political power of ordinary people is hurting the most vulnerable Americans and preventing progress on pressing issues.
The Mark Lynton History Prize
- WINNER: Tyler Anbinder, a professor of history at George Washington University, has won for his history of New York’s immigrants from the city’s founding to the present in CITY OF DREAMS: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
- FINALIST: Adam Hochschild, a lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley and author, for SPAIN IN OUR HEARTS: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 – 1939 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), which the judges cited as a “vivid, graceful, highly romantic account of what happened when more than one thousand Americans joined Spain’s beleaguered Republican forces in 1937.”
The J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award
- WINNER: Christopher Leonard, a journalist whose work has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, Fortune, Slate, The New Republic, and The Wall Street Journal and a Schmidt Family Foundation Fellow with The New America Foundation, has won for KOCHLAND (Simon & Schuster), his book on Koch Industries, one of the largest, most politically charged and most private companies in the United States.
- FINALIST: Helen Thorpe, a journalist, for her work THE NEWCOMERS (Scribner), which the judges say “documents a year in one classroom at South High School in Denver, Colo., that has developed a particular expertise in handling refugee and immigrant students new to the United States.”
The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000) 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, 2016, and December 31, 2016. Judges: Charlie Conrad (chair), Nina Burleigh, Richard Joyce.
WINNER: Gary Younge’s ANOTHER DAY IN THE DEATH OF AMERICA: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives (Nation Books)
Bio: Gary Younge is the editor-at-large for The Guardian and an Alfred Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute. In 2015, he was awarded the Foreign Commentator of the Year Award in Britain and the David Nyhan Prize for political journalism by Harvard’s Shorenstein’s Center. The acclaimed author of THE SPEECH, WHO ARE WE — AND SHOULD IT MATTER IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY?, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, and NO PLACE LIKE HOME, he is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Britain. He was formerly the Belle Zeller Visiting Professor of Public Policy and Social Administration at Brooklyn College, CUNY, and has two honorary degrees from British universities.
Judges’ citation: “This is a book about America and its kids viewed through a particular lens at a particular moment,” writes Gary Younge in “ANOTHER DAY IN THE DEATH OF AMERICA,” his intimate, affecting and urgent portrait of ten young lives ended due to gun violence during a period of 24 hours in cities across America. Younge’s masterful reporting indelibly illustrates the “collateral damage” of gun deaths happening every day “in a society where these deaths are uniquely possible and that has a political culture apparently uniquely incapable of creating a world in which they might be prevented.”
FINALIST: Zachary Roth’s THE GREAT SUPPRESSION: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy (Crown)
Bio: Zachary Roth was until recently a national reporter for MSNBC. He has written for The Atlantic, The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and Salon, among others. THE GREAT SUPPRESSION is his first book.
Judges’ citation: In THE GREAT SUPPRESSION, Zachary Roth explains the rigging of American democracy by focusing on a series of smaller plots — gerrymandering, right-wing judicial activism, dark money, and targeted voter suppression — that together have produced a right-wing minority takeover of the country at all levels. This stunning, briskly told little book exposes how a small and powerful group has worked for decades, largely under the radar, to return power to those for whom it was reserved by the nation’s founders — white, property-owning men. It is too late for today’s progressives, who never saw it coming, or, if they did, never presented a coherent defense against it. But this book belongs in every American college student’s backpack.
The Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000) 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, 2016, and December 31, 2016. Judges: Sylvia Nasar (chair), Leon Dash, Stacy Schiff.
WINNER: Tyler Anbinder’s CITY OF DREAMS: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Bio: Tyler Anbinder is a professor of history at George Washington University, where he teaches courses on the history of American immigration and the American Civil War. He is the author of two award-winning books: NATIVISM AND SLAVERY: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s and FIVE POINTS: The 19th-Century New York Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum. He is currently working on a book tracing the life stories of the 11,000 Irish immigrants who opened accounts at New York’s Emigrant Savings Bank in the 1850s.
Judges’ citation: Tyler Anbinder has set himself the impossible-sounding task of writing a history of New York immigration from the city’s founding to the present. He succeeds splendidly, extracting a graceful, kaleidoscopic narrative from a wealth of research. Peter Minuit introduces us to 1625 New Amsterdam shortly after Dutch settlers first scratched the colony out of the wilderness. Anbinder offers a tour of that fur-obsessed trading post before moving nimbly onwards, from the Scots and English to the recent waves of Chinese and Caribbean immigration, focusing in particular on those eras that would transform the city and with it, the country. Throughout he offers up emblematic, often forgotten heroes; the result is both ambitious and intimate, as — to different tempos and with varying degrees of success — each immigrant group settles and transforms the promised land. Anbinder seems to know instinctively how long to inhabit a story, whether telling that of Peter Zenger or of an early 20th century woman sailing in steerage to Ellis Island or of the Statue of Liberty herself. He does not forget his own great-grandparents. The result is a teeming, taut volume, richly readable, crackling with immigrant energy, as much about the country’s past as its future, the story of a city that — as Life had it a century ago — sported “fewer Americans and more Americanism than any spot between Calais, Maine and the Kingdom of Heaven.”
FINALIST: Adam Hochschild’s SPAIN IN OUR HEARTS: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 – 1939 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Bio: The first of Adam Hochschild’s eight books, HALF THE WAY HOME: A Memoir of Father and Son, was published in 1986. KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was his TO END ALL WARS: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. BURY THE CHAINS: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, was a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award. Hochschild’s articles and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Granta, The New York Review of Books and other magazines and newspapers, and a collection of them, FINDING THE TRAPDOOR: Essays, Portraits, Travels, won the PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the Essay. He is a lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley.
Judges’ citation: Adam Hochschild’s SPAIN IN OUR HEARTS is a vivid, graceful, highly romantic account of what happened when more than 1,000 young Americans joined Spain’s beleaguered Republican forces in 1937. Mostly Communist Party members with scant military experience and no Spanish, the volunteers fought against a million-man professional army led by General Francisco Franco and equipped by Mussolini and Hitler. The result was heartbreakingly predictable. No amount of ideological fervor or youthful heroism could overcome the Republicans’ dearth of weaponry, incompetent officers, or paranoid Soviet advisors. Many of the volunteers were killed or died of disease, many were disillusioned, but others considered Spain the finest time of their lives. Armed with a mass of original research and a rare gift for storytelling, Hochschild gives their experiences a fresh immediacy and relevance.
Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award (Winner: $25,000; Finalist: $5,000): 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. Judges: John Duff (chair), Martha Levin, Sarah Touborg.
WINNER: Christopher Leonard’s KOCHLAND (Simon & Schuster)
Bio: Christopher Leonard is a journalist whose work has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, Fortune, Slate, The New Republic and The Wall Street Journal. He is a Schmidt Family Foundation Fellow with The New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. Before joining New America, Leonard was a national business reporter with The Associated Press.
Judges’ citation: Christopher Leonard’s KOCHLAND is a timely, relevant, balanced and masterful work of journalism that explores one of the largest, most diverse, and richest conglomerates in the U.S. and creates an in-depth portrait of American corporate power. Using Koch Industries as microcosm to examine the new economic order in America, Leonard reveals the Koch’s mastery over America’s complex markets and political systems and, most important, shows why we live in a hollow economy, where corporations profit so handsomely while the majority of middle-class Americans fail to reap the gains of that prosperity.
FINALIST: Helen Thorpe’s THE NEWCOMERS (Scribner)
Bio: Helen Thorpe is an award-winning journalist who lives in Denver, Colo.. Her first book, JUST LIKE US: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America, was published by Scribner in 2009. It won the Colorado Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post. Her second book, SOLDIER GIRLS: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War, was published by Scribner in 2014. Time named it the number one nonfiction book of the year, and The New York Times said: “Through minute, almost claustrophobic, detail — using military and medical records, as well as therapists’ notes and personal correspondence — Thorpe achieves a staggering intimacy with her subjects.” THE NEWCOMERS, also from Scribner, is her third book.
Judges’ Citation: Helen Thorpe’s THE NEWCOMERS documents a year in one classroom at South High School in Denver, Colo. which has developed a particular expertise in handling refugee and immigrant students new to the United States. Having spent an entire year in the classroom observing them and their teacher, the remarkable Mr. Williams, Thorpe provides a compassionate and insightful look at these students as they struggle to master not only a new language but an entirely new way of life. Through the experiences of these children, we see the global refugee crisis writ small—in a way that allows us all to understand what our country represents to political refugees and how crucial it is that we continue to welcome them.
About the Lukas 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 for Journalism at Harvard, 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.
About Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
For more than a century, the Journalism School has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the School opened its doors in 1912 and offers a Masters of Science, Masters of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award. www.journalism.columbia.edu
About the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,500 journalists from 94 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that covers thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Journalism Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.