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 Prize Project, established in 1998, honors 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 Shortlist
- Roxanna Asgarian, We Were Once a Family: The Hart Murder-Suicide and the System Failing Our Kids (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
- Robert Fieseler, American Scare: A Cold War in the Sunshine State (Dutton)
- Benjamin Herold, Disillusioned: How the Suburbs and Their Schools Undermine the American Dream (Penguin Press)
- May Jeong, The Life: Sex, Work, and Love in America (Atria)
- Suki Kim, The Prince and the Revolutionary: Children of War (W. W. Norton)
J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Shortlist
- Andrea Elliott, Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City (Random House)
- Scott Ellsworth, The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice (Dutton)
- Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (Doubleday)
- Jessica Nordell, The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias (Metropolitan)
- Joshua Prager, The Family Roe: An American Story (W.W. Norton)
Mark Lynton History Prize Shortlist
- Katie Booth, The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness (Simon & Schuster)
- Noah Feldman, The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
- Amanda Frost, You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers (Beacon Press)
- Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (Random House)
- Jane Rogoyska, Surviving Katyń: Stalin’s Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth (Oneworld/Simon & Schuster)
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: Rachel Louise Snyder (chair), Paul Golob, and David Treuer.
Roxanna Asgarian, We Were Once a Family: The Hart Murder-Suicide and the System Failing Our Kids (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Bio: Roxanna Asgarian is an independent investigative journalist focused on the child protection and criminal legal systems. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Time, Vox, and New York Magazine, as well as many other outlets in print and online. A native of Las Vegas, Roxanna has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
Synopsis: We Were Once a Family: The Hart Murder-Suicide and the System Failing Our Kids explores the deeper story behind the 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)
Bio: Robert Fieseler is a National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association “Journalist of the Year” and the debut author of Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, which won the Edgar Award and the Louisiana Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Fieseler graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia Journalism School and is a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship. He lives with his husband in New Orleans.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Benjamin Herold is a veteran reporter and 2019-20 Spencer Fellow in Education Journalism whose beat coverage, feature writing, and investigative exposés have garnered national recognition. Herold has a master’s degree in urban education from Temple University in Philadelphia, where he previously worked as a researcher, documentary filmmaker, and training specialist for rape-crisis and domestic-violence prevention organizations.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: May Jeong is a reporter at Vanity Fair. Her reporting from Afghanistan has received the South Asian Journalist Association’s Daniel Pearl Award and the Bayeux Calvados Normandy Award for War Correspondents. Her work has also been recognized by the Kurt Schork Awards and the Livingston Awards.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Suki Kim is an investigative journalist, a novelist, and the only writer ever to have lived undercover in North Korea for immersive journalism, based on reporting from which she wrote her New York Times bestseller Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite. Her current project expands on her recent investigative feature, “Follow the Leader,” which appeared in The New Yorker. She is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.
Synopsis: 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.
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. Judges this year: Bruce Tracy (chair), Jessica Bruder, Julia Pastore, and Thomas Chatterton Williams.
Andrea Elliott, Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City (Random House)
Bio: Andrea Elliott Andrea Elliott is an investigative reporter for The New York Times and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, a George Polk Award, an Overseas Press Club Award, and other honors. In 2015, she was awarded Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence, given to one alumnus under the age of 45. Her book Invisible Child was chosen by The New York Times as one of the top 10 books of 2021.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Scott Ellsworth is the author of The Secret Game, winner of the 2016 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. He has written about American history for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Formerly a historian at the Smithsonian Institution, he is also the author of The World Beneath Their Feet and Death in a Promised Land. Ellsworth lives in Ann Arbor, where he teaches in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author, most recently, of the New York Times bestseller Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, was selected as one of the 10 best books of 2019 by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal, and was named one of the “10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade” by Entertainment Weekly. His previous books are The Snakehead and Chatter.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Jessica Nordell is a science and culture journalist whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The New Republic, and many other publications. A former writer for public radio and producer for American Public Media, she graduated from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The End of Bias: A Beginning is her first book.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Joshua Prager has written for The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. A 2011 Nieman Fellow at Harvard and Fulbright Distinguished Chair, he is the author of The Echoing Green (a Washington Post Best Book of the Year) and 100 Years (with Milton Glaser). He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters.
Synopsis: 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.
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. Judges: Julia Keller (chair), Anthony DePalma, and Kerri Greenidge.
Katie Booth, The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness (Simon & Schuster)
Bio: Katie Booth teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared in The Believer, Catapult, McSweeney’s, and Harper’s Magazine, and has been highlighted on Longreads and Longform. “The Sign for This” was a notable essay in the 2016 edition of Best American Essays. She was raised in a mixed hearing and deaf family. This is her first book.
Synopsis: The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafnessprovides 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)
Bio: Noah Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University as well as a Senior Fellow of the Society of Fellows and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for Bloomberg View and has worked as a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. He is the author of several books, including Cool War: The Future of Global Competition; Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Justices; The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State; Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem — and What We Should Do About It; and After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Amanda Frost is the Bronfman Professor of Law & Government at American University, and she writes and teaches in the fields of constitutional, immigration, and citizenship law. Her work has been published in numerous academic journals, as well as The Atlantic, The New York Times, The American Prospect, The Washington Post, and Slate.
Synopsis: 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 Americangrapples 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)
Bio: Tiya Miles is a professor of history, Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at Harvard Radcliffe Institute, and director of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. She is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and the Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Miles is also the author of The Dawn of Detroit; Ties That Bind; The House on Diamond Hill; and The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts.
Synopsis: 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)
Bio: Jane Rogoyska is the author of Gerda Taro: Inventing Robert Capa. She has a particular interest in the turbulent period from the 1930s to the Cold War in Europe. Her research into the 1940 Katyń Massacre led to her first novel,Kozłowski (long-listed for the 2020 Desmond Elliot Prize) and Still Here: A Polish Odyssey, which she wrote and presented for BBC Radio 4.
Synopsis: 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.
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.
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.