Nieman News

The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University are pleased to announce the 2018 shortlist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Mark Lynton History Prize.

The winners and finalists (runners-up) of the 2018 Lukas Prizes will be announced on March 27, 2018. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday, May 10, 2018 at Columbia Journalism School in New York. The Lukas Prize Project marks its 20th anniversary this year.

Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards:

Anthony Lukas Book Prize:

Mark Lynton History Prize:

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 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 four awards annually.

Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Awards (two winners to 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. The committee envisions the awards 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 this year: Barbara Clark (chair), John Duff and Chris Jackson.

Chris Hamby’s SOUL FULL OF COAL DUST: The True Story of an Epic Battle for Justice (Little, Brown and Company)

Bio: Chris Hamby is an investigative reporter at BuzzFeed News. His work has been recognized with the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, Harvard University’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, two White House Correspondents’ Association awards, and UCLA’s Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, as well as awards from the National Press Club, the National Press Foundation, and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. In 2017, he was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. He has reported on a range of subjects, including labor, public health, the environment, criminal justice, politics, and international trade. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Hamby lives and works in Washington, D.C.

Short Description: In a devastating and urgent work of investigative journalism, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hamby uncovers the terrifying resurgence of black lung disease in Appalachia and the systematic deprivation of benefits to ailing coal miners. Decades have passed since the disease was considered a national disgrace and Congress was pushed to take legislative action. Since then, however, not much has changed. Big coal companies, along with their allies in the legal and medical professions, have not only flouted the law and exposed miners to deadly amounts of coal dust, but also rigged the legal system designed to provide modest compensation and medical coverage to miners who suffer and die as a result of their jobs. At the same time, a small but scrappy coalition of miners and their advocates — nurses, doctors, and lawyers working out of their homes or in rural clinics and tiny offices — has been fighting back, determined to make the promises of fair compensation and disease eradication realities. Hamby unfolds this epic struggle through the lives of two men — one a West Virginia coal miner, the other a community organizer-turned-carpenter-turned-lawyer — whose paths converge in a long-shot legal struggle against the region’s most powerful forces, with far-reaching implications for generations of miners and their families. Full of the rich and complex atmosphere of Appalachia, the gritty realities of mining, and tense courtroom dramas, SOUL FULL OF COAL DUST is an important and timely book about injustice and resistance.

Arthur Holland Michel’s EYES IN THE SKY (Eamon Dolan Books)

Bio: Arthur Holland Michel is a Peruvian-born writer and researcher. He has written about drones, surveillance, artificial intelligence, and robots for Wired, The Verge, Motherboard, Al Jazeera America, Bookforum, Vice, and an Oxford Research Encyclopedia, among others. He is the co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone, a research institute at Bard College.

Short Description: EYES IN THE SKY chronicles the rise of a new generation of powerful airborne surveillance technologies and examines what it means for society when we are all watched perpetually from above. The author charts the remarkable secret project to build the world’s most powerful camera in order to target and track thousands of suspected combatants in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, investigates a bold initiative to use the same technology to fight crime in America’s cities, and uncovers the intelligence community’s quiet ongoing efforts to merge surveillance technology with AI to create a truly all-seeing weapon. EYES IN THE SKY reveals a coming revolution in aerial spycraft that leaves citizens little room to hide, and proposes how we might protect ourselves from such intrusive scrutiny before it’s too late.

Rachel Louise Snyder’s NO VISIBLE BRUISES: What We Don’t Know About Violence Can Kill Us (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Bio: Rachel Louise Snyder is a journalist who writes about domestic violence and violence studies. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and elsewhere. She has discussed domestic violence for numerous media outlets including Al Jazeera America, MSNBC, and the Diane Rehm Show, where Jimmy Carter lauded her groundbreaking coverage in The New Yorker of teams of professionals focused on protecting individuals at high risk for being a victim of domestic violence. Snyder is the author of FUGITIVE DENIM: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade (W.W. Norton, 2007), named one of the best business books of the year by Library Journal, and a novel WHAT WE’VE LOST IS NOTHING (Scribner, 2014), named one of the ten best suspense novels of the summer by Vogue An Associate Professor of journalism and creative writing at American University, she lives in Washington, D.C.

Short Description: We call it domestic violence. We call it private violence. Sometimes we call it intimate terrorism. But whatever we call it, we generally do not believe it has anything at all to do with us, despite the World Health Organization deeming it a “global epidemic.” In NO VISIBLE BRUISES, journalist Rachel Louise Snyder gives an urgent and immersive account of the scope of domestic violence in our country, structured around key case studies that explode the common myths—that if things were bad enough victims would just leave; that a violent person cannot become nonviolent; that shelter is an adequate response; that violence inside the home is separate from other forms of violence like mass shootings, gang violence, and sexual assault. Through the stories of victims, perpetrators, law enforcement, and reform movements from across the country, Snyder explores not only the real roots of domestic violence, but also its far-reaching consequences for society, as well as what it will take to truly address it.

Katherine E. Standefer’s LIGHTNING FLOWERS (Little, Brown and Company)

Bio: Katherine E. Standefer writes about the body, consent, and medical technology from Tucson, Arizona. Her debut book, LIGHTNING FLOWERS, is forthcoming from Little, Brown and Company in early 2020. Her writing won the 2015 Iowa Review Award in nonfiction, appeared in Best American Essays 2016, and was selected as Notable for Best American Essays 2017. Her work also recently appeared in the anthologies Beautiful Flesh: A Body of Essays and How We Speak To One Another: An Essay Daily Reader, and publications including The Normal School, The Iowa Review, Fourth Genre, Cutbank, The High Country News, and The Colorado Review. She earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at the University of Arizona, where she teaches undergraduate creative writing. In the community, she teaches electric, intimate writing classes that help people tell their stories of sexuality, illness, and trauma. She was a 2017 Marion Weber Healing Arts Fellow at The Mesa Refuge, which supports writers working at the intersection of nature, human economy, and equity.

Short Description: What if a lifesaving medical device causes loss of life along its supply chain? That’s the question author Katherine E. Standefer finds herself asking one night after being shocked by her implanted cardiac defibrillator for the first time. From the tantalum and tin mines seized by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a nickel and cobalt mine carved out of endemic Madagascar jungle, LIGHTNING FLOWERS takes us on a global reckoning with the social and environmental costs of a technology that promises to be lifesaving but is, in fact, much more complicated. Though the same kind of defibrillator has saved her younger sister from sudden cardiac death caused by the family arrhythmia, Standefer finds her own body more often endangered by the device. Deeply personal and sharply reported, LIGHTNING FLOWERS takes a hard look at American healthcare policies, technological mythos, and our cultural relationship to death, raising important questions about our obligations to one another, and the meaning of one life.

Susan Vinocour’s THE TRIALS OF BARBARA BRIGGS: Poverty, Insanity, and Justice in America (W.W. Norton & Company)

Bio: Susan Vinocour was born and bred in the Midwest. Her love of language and stories led her to dream of becoming a writer from early childhood, but there were detours along the way. She obtained a law degree from the University of Michigan and became a Legal Aid attorney in Detroit in one of the first programs to provide legal representation to children and youth in abuse and delinquency proceedings. Upon moving to Rochester, New York, she took a position as a Special Assistant District Attorney in what was to become the Family Violence Bureau. When her law career was interrupted by the births of her three children, she returned to school and obtained her PhD in Clinical Psychology. She then became a clinical and forensic psychologist, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and the Director of the country’s first post-doctoral training program in Child and Adolescent Forensic Psychology. She completed an MFA in Fine Arts from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and her work has appeared in a number of literary journals. To recharge her batteries, she hikes in the Rockies, listens to classical music, and reads.

Short Description: THE TRIALS OF BARBARA BRIGGS is the story of Barbara Briggs, an impoverished African-American woman battling mental illness and intellectual disability. She is struggling, and failing, to care for her three youngest children when Child Protective Services drops her three-year-old grandson, Keith, at her doorstep. Keith’s mother, Heaven My Love, is Barbara’s oldest daughter. She is also schizophrenic, drug-addicted, and wandering the streets, homeless, with the child. Barbara protests that she is unwell and unable to care for the boy but the Child Protective worker turns a deaf ear. “He’s your responsibility,” he says as he disappears down the sidewalk. Six months later, Barbara calls 911; Keith is found lifeless on her kitchen floor with a fatal head injury. She has been sleeping with his bruised and malnourished corpse for three days, moving him on and off a heating grate to simulate the warmth of life. Barbara is charged with 2nd Degree Murder. “Nobody’s Child” follows her ensuing trial, explores the insanity defense, with its arcane legal definition ungrounded in psychiatric realities, and exposes the realities of criminal justice for the poor.

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 published between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017. Judges this year: William Shinker (chair), David Blum and Dale Russakoff.

Nate Blakeslee’s AMERICAN WOLF: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West (Crown)

Bio: Nate Blakeslee is a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly. His first book, TULIA, won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Texas Institute of Letters nonfiction prize, and was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. The Washington Post called TULIA one of the most important books about wrongful convictions ever written. Blakeslee lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.

Short Description: Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West. With aching, intimate detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female. Powerful yet merciful, she is beloved by wolf-watchers. But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters competing with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers and politicians fighting for a dying way of life; and by other Yellowstone wolves vying for control of Yellowstone’s stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley. These forces collide in AMERICAN WOLF, a riveting multigenerational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the ongoing cultural clash in the West.

Jessica Bruder’s NOMADLAND: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (W.W. Norton & Company)

Bio: Jessica Bruder is an award-winning journalist whose work focuses on subcultures and the dark corners of the economy. She has written for Harper’s, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Bruder teaches at the Columbia Journalism School where she earned a M.S. in 2004.

Short Description: From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that Social Security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves “workampers.” In a secondhand vehicle she christens “Van Halen,” Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately, telling a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive.

Amy Goldstein’s JANESVILLE: An American Story (Simon & Schuster)

Bio: Amy Goldstein has been a staff writer for thirty years at The Washington Post, where much of her work has focused on social policy. Among her awards, she shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She has been a fellow at Harvard University at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. JANESVILLE: An American Story is her first book.

Short Description: JANESVILLE: An American Story is a close-up of a small Midwestern city – the hometown of Paul Ryan – that lost a slew of jobs during the Great Recession when General Motors’ oldest operating assembly plant closed two days before Christmas of 2008. It is a narrative that explores what really happens to people and the texture of a proud community when good work goes away, taking readers deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians and job re-trainers to show why it’s so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a prosperous, healthy working class.

Lauren Markham’s THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS: Two Young Migrants And the Making of an American Life (Crown)

Bio: Lauren Markham is a writer based in Berkeley, California focusing on issues related to youth, migration and the environment. Her work has appeared in outlets including VICE, Orion, com, The Guardian, Guernica, and VQR. For the past decade, she has worked in the fields of refugee resettlement and immigrant education.

Short Description: Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, the United States was a distant fantasy to identical twins Ernesto and Raul Flores—until, at age 17, a deadly threat from the region’s brutal gangs forces them to flee the only home they’ve ever known. In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the Flores twins as they make their way across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother in Oakland, California. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of teenage life with only each other for support. With intimate access and breathtaking range, Markham offers an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience.

Helen Thorpe’s THE NEWCOMERS: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom (Scribner)

Bio: Helen Thorpe was born in London and grew up in New Jersey. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York magazine, The New Yorker, Slate, and Harper’s Bazaar. Her radio stories have aired on This American Life and Sound Print. She is also the author of JUST LIKE US and SOLDIER GIRLS and lives in Denver, Colorado. Thorpe received a finalist citation for the 2017 J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award for THE NEWCOMERS. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the Columbia School of General Studies.

Short Description: THE NEWCOMERS follows the lives of 22 immigrant teenagers throughout the course of the 2015 – 2016 school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado. These newcomers, from 14 to 19 years old, come from nations convulsed by drought or famine or war. Readers learn about the families of the students, the harrowing journeys that have brought them to Denver, and how badly the students and their families want to “be American.” Together, these stories create an urgent portrait of the real crisis of displaced people around the globe, and act as a reminder that American wars overseas inevitably send refugees to our shores.

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, 2017, and December 31, 2017. Judges: David Maraniss, Ethan Michaeli, Sylvia Nasar and Elizabeth Taylor.

Edward L. Ayers’s THE THIN LIGHT OF FREEDOM: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America (W.W. Norton & Company)

Bio: Edward L. Ayers is the author of the Bancroft Prize–winning IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES and other works of history honored as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President Obama, Ayers is Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus at the University of Richmond.

Short Description: In a beautifully crafted narrative, Edward L. Ayers restores the drama of the unexpected to the history of the Civil War, setting up at ground level in the Great Valley counties of Augusta, Virginia, and Franklin, Pennsylvania, communities that shared a prosperous landscape but were divided by the Mason-Dixon Line. From the same vantage point occupied by his unforgettable characters, Ayers captures the strategic savvy of Lee and his local lieutenants, and the clear vision of equal rights animating black troops from Pennsylvania. We see the war itself become a scourge to the Valley, its pitched battles punctuating a cycle of vicious attack and reprisal in which armies burned whole towns for retribution. In the weeks and months after emancipation, from the streets of Staunton, Virginia, we see black and white residents testing the limits of freedom as political leaders negotiate the terms of readmission to the Union. Ayers deftly shows throughout how the dynamics of political opposition drove these momentous events, transforming once unimaginable outcomes into fact. With analysis as powerful as its narrative, here is a landmark history of the Civil War.

Jonathan Eig’s ALI: A Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Bio: Jonathan Eig is the author of four critically acclaimed books, two of them New York Times best sellers. He was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Monsey, New York. Eig is a former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, and he remains a contributing writer there. He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, The Washington Post, and other publications. He has appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and in two Ken Burns films for PBS. He is currently working with Burns to develop a documentary on Muhammad Ali. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Short Description: The definitive biography of an American icon, from a New York Times best-selling author with unique access to Ali’s inner circle. Until now, Ali has never been the subject of a complete, unauthorized biography. Jonathan Eig, hailed by Ken Burns as one of America’s master storytellers, radically reshapes our understanding of the complicated man who was Ali. Eig had access to all the key people in Ali’s life, including his three surviving wives and his managers. He conducted more than 500 interviews and uncovered thousands of pages of previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department files, as well as dozens of hours of newly discovered audiotaped interviews from the 1960s. Collectively, they tell Ali’s story like never before—the story of a man who was flawed and uncertain and brave beyond belief. Eig reveals Ali in the complexity he deserves, shedding important new light on his politics, religion, personal life, and neurological condition. This is a story about America, about race, about a brutal sport, and about a courageous man who shook up the world.

Frances FitzGerald’s THE EVANGELICALS: The Struggle to Shape America (Simon & Schuster)

Bio: Frances FitzGerald is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bancroft Prize, and a prize from the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the author of FIRE IN THE LAKE: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam; AMERICA REVISED: History Schoolbooks in the Twentieth Century; CITIES ON A HILL: A Journey through Contemporary American Cultures; WAY OUT IN THE BLUE: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War; and VIETNAM: Spirits of the Earth.  She has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, Rolling Stone, and Esquire.  She lives in New York and Maine with her husband, James Sterba.

Short Description: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historian Frances FitzGerald tells the crucial story of how the Christian evangelical movement has come to play such an influential role in our national culture and politics, from the 18th century to the 2016 election, in THE EVANGELICALS. FitzGerald’s groundbreaking work is the first full account of the place of evangelicals in our history, as well as a foreshadowing of their likely place in our future. In her vivid narrative—featuring colorful figures from Jonathan Edwards to Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Pat Robertson, Rich Warren, Jim Wallis, and Ted Cruz, as well as headline-making organizations like the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family—FitzGerald chronicles the historical evolution of America’s strongest and most persistent religious tradition.

Caroline Fraser’s PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books)

Bio: Caroline Fraser is the editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, and the author of REWILDING THE WORLD and GOD’S PERFECT CHILD. Her writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. She lives in New Mexico.

Short Description: One of The New York Times Book Review‘s 10 Best Books of the Year, PRAIRIE FIRES is the first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the LITTLE HOUSE series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting. Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than her books. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, achieving fame and fortune in the process.

Stephen Kotkin’s STALIN: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (Penguin Press)

Bio: Stephen Kotkin is the John P. Birkelund Professor in History and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is also a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He directs Princeton’s Institute for International and Regional Studies and co-directs its Program in the History and Practice of Diplomacy. His books include UNCIVIL SOCIETY, ARMAGEDDON AVERTED, and MAGNETIC MOUNTAIN. Kotkin was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for STALIN – VOLUME 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928.

Short Description: Pulitzer Prize finalist Stephen Kotkin has written the definitive biography of Joseph Stalin. This second volume covers collectivization and the Great Terror to the conflict with Hitler’s Germany that is the signal event of modern world history. STALIN: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–1941 is a history of the world during the build-up to its most fateful hour, from the vantage point of Stalin’s seat of power. It is a landmark achievement in the annals of historical scholarship, and in the art of biography.

About Columbia Journalism School

For more than a century, the 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 Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Data Journalism, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Communications.  It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. 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, Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award. | @columbiajourn

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 96 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 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. | @niemanfdn