Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University are pleased to announce the 2020 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 2020 Lukas Prizes will be announced on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, at Columbia Journalism School in New York City.
J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards shortlist:
- Bartow J. Elmore, SEED MONEY (W. W. Norton)
- Shahan Mufti, AMERICAN CALIPH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Michelle Nijhuis, BELOVED BEASTS (W. W. Norton)
- Sarah Schulman, LET THE RECORD SHOW (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Lawrence Tabak, FOXCONNED (The University of Chicago Press)
J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize shortlist
- Emily Bazelon, CHARGED (Random House)
- Jennifer Berry Hawes, GRACE WILL LEAD US HOME (St. Martin’s Press)
- Jodie Adams Kirshner, BROKE (St. Martin’s Press)
- Alex Kotlowitz, AN AMERICAN SUMMER (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)
- Margaret O’Mara, THE CODE (Penguin Press)
Mark Lynton History Prize shortlist
- Carrie Gibson, EL NORTE (Atlantic Monthly Press)
- Kerri K. Greenidge, BLACK RADICAL (Liveright)
- Pekka Hämäläinen, LAKOTA AMERICA (Yale University Press)
- Daniel Immerwahr, HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Brendan Simms, HITLER (Basic Books)
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.
J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards (two $25,000 prizes)
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. Judges this year: MacKenzie Fraser-Bub Collier (chair), Peter Ginna, and Lucas Wittmann.
Bartow J. Elmore’s SEED MONEY: Monsanto’s Past and the Future of Food (W. W. Norton)
Bio: Bartow J. Elmore is associate professor of environmental history, a core faculty member of Ohio State University’s Sustainability Institute, and a Class of 2017 National Fellow at the New American Foundation. His award-winning first book, Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism (W. W. Norton, 2015) examined the environmental impact of Coca-Cola’s worldwide operations. He has given a TEDx talk based on his Coke research and for the better part of the last decade has worked on a book project titled Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and the Future of Food.
Synopsis: Seed Money seeks to address a pressing question: How will we feed a population now rising above 7.5 billion in the years ahead? One company that claimed to have the answer was Monsanto, a St. Louis firm that began as a chemical business in 1901 and became the world’s largest distributor of genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Now merged with the powerful German company Bayer, Monsanto’s seed enterprises are radically reshaping ecosystems across the globe, making it all the more important to understand how this maker of DDT came to manage DNA. Now, as we approach the 25th anniversary of the world’s first Roundup Ready GE soybean harvest, Seed Money draws on documents acquired via Freedom of Information Act requests, confidential files housed in corporate archives, sensitive interviews with company employees, courtroom testimony, and field research in Vietnam, Brazil, and beyond to expose how a company that once made Agent Orange and PCBs survived its complicated chemical past to seed our food future.
Shahan Mufti’s AMERICAN CALIPH: The True Story of the Hanafi Siege, America’s First Homegrown Islamic Terror Attack (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Bio: Shahan Mufti is a journalist whose work has been published by Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, and many others. He is a professor of journalism at the University of Richmond in Virginia. Previously, he worked as a daily news reporter for The Christian Science Monitor and was a Fulbright Scholar in India researching political Islam. His first book, The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family and War is based on his time living and reporting in South Asia.
Synopsis: American Caliph tells the story of the Hanafi Siege, the first-ever attack by Muslim militants on American soil. In March 1977, a dozen Muslim men, led by an African-American convert named Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, took over three buildings in Washington, D.C. and held close to 150 hostages. They were protesting the release of a Hollywood biopic of the Islamic prophet Muhammad directed by a Muslim American immigrant from Syria and partially financed by the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The deadly standoff, during which soon-to-be mayor Marion Barry was also shot, brought downtown Washington to a standstill for almost 40 hours. The crisis involved several law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, and the ambassadors from Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt. Using the Hanafi Siege as the centerpiece, this book details the formation and development of competing Muslim communities in America and explores issues of race, immigration, foreign policy, Islam, and terrorism in 20th century America.
Michelle Nijhuis’s BELOVED BEASTS: The Story of Conservation and the Fight to Protect Life on Earth (W. W. Norton)
Bio: Michelle Nijhuis, a project editor for The Atlantic and a longtime contributing editor for High Country News, writes about science and the environment for publications including National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine. After 15 years off the electrical grid in rural Colorado, she and her family now live in southwestern Washington.
Synopsis: For well over a century, conservationists have devoted themselves to protecting other species from global extinction. While their failures are well known, their successes are more numerous and significant than most of us realize. Beloved Beasts traces the lives and work of the scientists, activists, self-taught philosophers, and others who built the modern conservation movement, and shows how their legacy can advance the cause of conservation in our own time.
Sarah Schulman’s LET THE RECORD SHOW: A Political History of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, ACT UP, NY 1987-1993 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Bio: Sarah Schulman is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer, and AIDS historian. She is a Distinguished Professor of English at The College of Staten Island, City University of New York, and is on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Synopsis: Let the Record Show: A Political History of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, ACT UP, NY 1987-1993 is based on the ACT UP Oral History Project (www.actuporalhistory.org), 188 interviews conducted over 18 years with surviving members of the Direct Action AIDS Activist organization, ACT UP. This 750-page book reveals ACT UP as an organizational nexus from which members simultaneously engaged diverse struggles within varied communities of people with AIDS. By insisting that all people with AIDS are equally important, the book reveals a broad social landscape including prisoners, Haitians, gay men, newborns, artists, homeless people, drug users, women, Latinx, mothers, and the overlapping realities that exist within each life. By contrasting the different social positions of people infected with the same virus, the author reveals how a person’s privilege determined their political strategies and their path to treatment and support. By synthesizing massive amounts of material, Sarah Schulman provides crucial information to today’s activists about the specifics of direct action, non-violent civil disobedience, affinity group structure, and the experience of working with simultaneity of approach instead of consensus.
Lawrence Tabak’s FOXCONNED: How the Mindless Pursuit of Good Jobs Destroys Homes, Wastes Billions and Enriches the Few (The University of Chicago Press)
Bio: Lawrence Tabak is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer who has been following Wisconsin’s pursuit of the Foxconn business deal from the beginning in 2017. His analysis of commercial economic impact studies was published in The American Prospect. His work has appeared in numerous other journals including The New York Times, Fast Company, Salon, Forbes.com and The Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of the 2014 novel In Real Life.
Synopsis: Foxconned is a cautionary tale exploring not only economics, but the individuals who are affected, from homeowners whose houses are bulldozed to multigenerational manufacturing workers falsely assured that the deal will benefit them. It goes deep into the processes, personalities and politics that have propelled the growth of mega-incentive deals. From a massive tax increment financing district to wild state v. state bidding to inflated economic impact studies to sweetheart contracts, no recent job creation effort better illustrates the spiraling disaster of economic development trends than Wisconsin’s $4+ billion-dollar commitment to lure Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn to the state in exchange for enormous subsidies. Foxconned tells this story not as a singular event, but as emblematic of a trend that shifts tax dollars from education, health care and infrastructure to corporate coffers. Governors and municipal leaders make huge bets on selected companies in the hope of political gain. These deals instead have become one of the under-recognized forces of wealth transfer and income inequity ripping the fabric of civil society.
J. 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 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, 2019, and December 31, 2019. Judges this year: Barbara Clark (chair), Wesley Lowery, and Miriam Pawel.
Emily Bazelon’s CHARGED: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration (Random House)
Bio: Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, and a lecturer at Yale Law School. Her previous book is the national bestseller Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Synopsis: The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. That image does not match the reality in the courtroom, however. Much of the time, prosecutors control the outcome of a case, making most of the key decisions, from choosing the charge to setting the bail to determining the plea bargain. In Charged, renowned journalist Emily Bazelon reveals how this is a cause of enormous injustice—and the missing piece in the mass incarceration puzzle.
Charged closely tracks two cases of people caught up in the criminal justice system and illustrates how criminal prosecutions can go wrong—and, more important, why they don’t have to. By highlighting a wave of new, reform-minded DAs who have been elected to do nothing less than reinvent how their job is done, Bazelon ultimately shows how the criminal justice system can begin working toward a different and profoundly better future.
Jennifer Berry Hawes’s GRACE WILL LEAD US HOME: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness (St. Martin’s Press)
Bio: Jennifer Berry Hawes writes for the Charleston-based Post and Courier, where she spent a decade covering religion and now works on a team that handles in-depth investigative reporting projects for the newspaper. Her work has won many honors including a Pulitzer Prize, a George Polk Award, a National Headliner Award, and a Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma. Grace Will Lead Us Home is Hawes’ first book. She lives in Charleston.
Synopsis: On June 17, 2015, 12 members of the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina welcomed a young white man to their evening Bible study. He arrived with a pistol, 88 bullets, and hopes of starting a race war. Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine innocents during their closing prayer horrified the nation. Two days later, some relatives of the dead stood at Roof’s hearing and said, “I forgive you.” That grace offered the country a hopeful ending to an awful story. But for the survivors and victims’ families, the journey had just begun.
In Grace Will Lead Us Home, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes provides a definitive account of the tragedy’s aftermath and offers a nuanced and moving portrait of the events and emotions that emerged in the massacre’s wake. This is the story of how, beyond the headlines, a community of people begins to heal.
Jodie Adams Kirshner, BROKE: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises (St. Martin’s Press)
Bio: Jodie Adams Kirshner is a research professor at New York University. Previously on the law faculty at Cambridge University, she also teaches bankruptcy law at Columbia Law School. She is a member of the American Law Institute, past term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and technical advisor to the Bank for International Settlements. She received a multiyear grant from the Kresge Foundation to research this book.
Synopsis: In Broke, Jodie Adams Kirshner follows seven Detroiters as they navigate life during and after their city’s bankruptcy. Like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, Broke looks at what municipal distress means, not just on paper but in practical—and personal—terms. More than 40 percent of Detroit’s 700,000 residents fall below the poverty line. Post-bankruptcy, they struggle with a broken real estate market, school system, and job market—and their lives have not improved.
Detroit is emblematic. Kirshner makes a powerful argument that cities—the economic engine of America—are never quite given the aid that they need by either the state or federal government for their residents to survive, not to mention flourish. Success for all America’s citizens depends on equity of opportunity.
Alex Kotlowitz, AN AMERICAN SUMMER: Love and Death in Chicago (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)
Bio: Alex Kotlowitz is the author of the national bestseller There Are No Children Here, selected by the New York Public Library as one of the most important books of the 20th century. The Other Side of the River was awarded the Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction. His documentary, The Interrupters, received an Emmy and a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. Kotlowitz’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and on This American Life, and he has won two Peabody Awards, two duPont-Columbia University Awards, and a George Polk Award. He is a writer in residence at Northwestern University. Kotlowitz lives with his wife, Maria Woltjen, and their two children outside of Chicago.
Synopsis: The numbers are staggering: over the past 20 years in Chicago, 14,033 people were killed and another 60,000 wounded by gunfire. What does that do to the spirit of individuals and community? In An American Summer, Alex Kotlowitz applies the close-up reporting that made his previous book, There Are No Children Here, a classic, chronicling one summer in Chicago and the individuals who have emerged from the violence. Their stories capture the capacity—and the breaking point—of the human heart and soul. The result is a spellbinding collection of intimate profiles that upend what we think we know about gun violence.
Margaret O’Mara, THE CODE: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin Press)
Bio: Margaret O’Mara is a professor of history at the University of Washington. She writes and teaches about the history of U.S. politics, the growth of the high-tech economy, and the connections between the two, and is the author of Cities of Knowledge and Pivotal Tuesdays. She received her MA/PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and her BA from Northwestern University. Prior to her academic career, she worked in the Clinton White House and served as a contributing researcher at the Brookings Institution. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband Jeff and their two daughters.
Synopsis: In The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, Margaret O’Mara reveals the true, behind-the-scenes history of the people who built Silicon Valley and shaped Big Tech in America. She lays particular emphasis on the Valley’s crucial relationships with Washington, D.C., showing how those connections have repeatedly made Big Tech the nexus of so many American hopes and dreams—and, increasingly, nightmares.
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, 2019, and December 31, 2019. Judges: Ethan Michaeli (chair), Imani Perry, and Mark Whitaker.
Carrie Gibson’s EL NORTE: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Bio: Carrie Gibson is the author of the acclaimed Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean From Columbus to the Present Day. She received a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, focusing on the Spanish Caribbean in the era of the Haitian Revolution, and has worked as a journalist for The Guardian and contributed to other publications, as well as the BBC. She has done research across Mexico, the West Indies, and North America. She lives in London.
Synopsis: El Norte chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present—from Ponce de Leon’s initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start but which are unresolved to this day: language, belonging, community, race, and nationality. Seeing them play out over centuries provides vital perspective at a time when it is urgently needed.
Kerri K. Greenidge’s BLACK RADICAL: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter (Liveright)
Bio: Kerri K. Greenidge teaches in Tufts University’s Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, where she is director of the program in American Studies, and where she is also co-director of the African American Trail Project. She lives in Massachusetts.
Synopsis: In Black Radical, a long-overdue biography reestablishes William Monroe Trotter’s essential place next to Douglass, Du Bois, and King in the pantheon of American civil rights heroes. Trotter (1872–1934), though still largely unknown to the wider public, was an unlikely American hero. With the stylistic verve of a newspaperman and the unwavering fearlessness of an emancipator, he galvanized black working-class citizens to wield their political power despite the violent racism of post-Reconstruction America. For more than 30 years, the Harvard-educated Trotter edited and published The Boston Guardian, a weekly Boston newspaper that was read across the nation. Defining himself against the gradualist politics of Booker T. Washington and the elitism of W. E. B. Du Bois, Trotter advocated for a radical vision of black liberation that prefigured leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Synthesizing years of archival research, historian Kerri Greenidge renders the drama of turn-of-the-century America and reclaims Trotter as a seminal figure, whose prophetic, yet ultimately tragic, life offers a link between the vision of Frederick Douglass and black radicalism in the modern era.
Pekka Hämäläinen’s LAKOTA AMERICA: A New History of Indigenous Power (Yale University Press)
Bio: Pekka Hämäläinen is the Rhodes Professor of American History and a fellow at St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University. He has served as the principal investigator of a five‑year project on nomadic empires in world history, funded by the European Research Council. His previous book, The Comanche Empire, won the Bancroft Prize in 2009.
Synopsis: This first complete account of the Lakota Indians traces their rich and often surprising history from the early 16th to the early 21st century. In Lakota America, Pekka Hämäläinen explores the Lakotas’ roots as marginal hunter‑gatherers and reveals how they reinvented themselves twice: first as a river people who dominated the Missouri Valley, America’s great commercial artery, and then—in what was America’s first sweeping westward expansion—as a horse people who ruled supreme on the vast high plains. The Lakotas are imprinted in American historical memory. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull are iconic figures in the American imagination, but in this groundbreaking book they emerge as something different: the architects of Lakota America, an expansive and enduring Indigenous regime that commanded human fates in the North American interior for generations. Hämäläinen’s deeply researched and engagingly written history places the Lakotas at the center of American history, and the results are revelatory.
Daniel Immerwahr’s HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE: A History of the Greater United States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Bio: Daniel Immerwahr is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University and the author of Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development, which won the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award. He has written for n+1, The Nation, Dissent, and other publications.
Synopsis: Daniel Immerwahr presents a history of the United States’ reach overseas, from Puerto Rico to the Philippines and beyond, and what these involvements reveal about the true meaning of American empire. A fresh analysis of what empire and globalization mean today, How to Hide an Empire is a major work of history.
Brendan Simms’s HITLER: A Global Biography (Basic Books)
Bio: Brendan Simms is a professor of the history of international relations and a fellow at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. He is the author of eight previous books, including The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo and Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present, shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize. He lives in Cambridge, UK.
Synopsis: Hitler offers a deeply learned and radically revisionist biography, arguing that the dictator’s main strategic enemy, from the start of his political career in the 1920s, was not communism or the Soviet Union, but capitalism and the United States. Whereas most historians have argued that Hitler underestimated the American threat, Simms shows that Hitler embarked on a preemptive war with the United States precisely because he considered it such a potent adversary. The war against the Jews was driven both by his anxiety about combatting the supposed forces of international plutocracy and by a broader desire to maintain the domestic cohesion he thought necessary for survival on the international scene. A powerfully argued account of a murderous tyrant we thought we understood, Hitler is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the origins and outcomes of the Second World War.
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 degrees as well as 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, the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award. www.journalism.columbia.edu | @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 1,600 journalists from 99 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. www.nieman.harvard.edu | @niemanfdn