Nieman News

A bookshelf graphic displays books covers of the 15 books shortlisted for the 2024 J. Anthony Lukas Prizes

Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University are pleased to announce the 2024 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 book writing.

The winners and finalists of the 2024 Lukas Prizes will be announced on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. The awards will be presented at a ceremony at Columbia Journalism School on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards Shortlist

  • Lorraine Boissoneault, Body Weather: Notes on Illness in the Anthropocene (Beacon Press)
  • Alice Driver, The Life and Death of the American Worker: The Immigrants Taking on America’s Largest Meatpacking Company (Astra House)
  • Ranita Ray, Violent Schools: Slow Death in the American Classroom (St. Martin’s Press)
  • Jessica Slice, Unfit Parent: On the Barriers and Brilliance of Raising Kids While Disabled and Chronically Ill (Beacon Press)
  • Nilo Tabrizy and Khadijah Heydari, For the Sun After Long Nights: The Story of Iran’s Women-Led Uprising (Pantheon)

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Shortlist

  • Kerry Howley, Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State (Knopf)
  • Cara McGoogan, Blood Farm: The Explosive Big Pharma Scandal that Altered the AIDS Crisis (Diversion Books)
  • Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson, American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Joe Sexton, The Lost Sons of Omaha: Two Young Men in an American Tragedy (Scribner)
  • Dashka Slater, Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Mark Lynton History Prize Shortlist

  • Gary J. Bass, Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia (Knopf)
  • Ned Blackhawk, The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History (Yale University Press)
  • Jonathan Eig, King: A Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Dylan Penningroth, Before the Movement: The Hidden History of Black Civil Rights (Liveright/W. W. Norton)
  • Yepoka Yeebo, Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World (Bloomsbury)

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: Chris Jackson (chair), Erika Hayasaki and Philip Turner.

Head shots of five of the authors selected for the 2024 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in Progress Award shortlist

2024 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress shortlisted authors from left to right: Lorraine Boissoneault, Alice Driver, Ranita Ray, Jessica Slice, Nilo Tabrizy; not shown: Khadijah Heydari

Lorraine Boissoneault, Body Weather: Notes on Illness in the Anthropocene (Beacon Press) Lorraine Boissoneault is a Chicago-based journalist whose work covers science, human rights, history and health. Currently a writer for the educational web series “Real Science” and host of the show “Archeology Quest,” she previously worked as the staff history writer for Smithsonian Magazine. Her work has also appeared in National Geographic, Believer Magazine, The New Yorker, Great Lakes Now, Hakai, PassBlue and The Atlantic. Her first book, The Last Voyageurs, was a finalist for the 2016 Chicago Book of the Year Award. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.

Body Weather is a book about living with chronic illness in a world undergoing rapid climate change. By focusing on the author’s personal experience, it illuminates the subtle connections between our bodies and the planet’s meteorology. The narrative examines multiple elements of weather, from temperature to fires and floods, while interspersing stories of autoimmune diseases that affect nearly all body systems and afflict tens of millions of women. Three years into a global pandemic that has killed millions and left millions more newly disabled, Body Weather emphasizes the resourcefulness of the chronically ill, while also highlighting the sexism, racism and ableism that still permeate the medical field. Body Weather tells a story of resilience in the face of suffering, paired with scientific research, history and a keen exploration of the layered chaos of 21st century life.

Alice Driver, The Life and Death of the American Worker: The Immigrants Taking on America’s Largest Meatpacking Company (Astra House)

Alice Driver is a James Beard Award-winning writer from the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. She is the author of More or Less Dead and the forthcoming Artists All Around, a memoir about her family’s relationship with author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. Driver is the translator of Abecedario de Juárez.

By shining a light on the lives of the immigrant laborers from marginalized communities who prepare our food, The Life and Death of the American Worker unmasks Tyson Foods, the largest meat-processing company in the U.S. Based in Arkansas, Tyson Foods relies overwhelmingly on immigrants and refugees to do the difficult and dangerous daily labor of processing chicken. During the pandemic, workers from Mexico, Central America, the Marshall Islands, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Myanmar — many of whom only speak their native language — faced working conditions at meatpacking plants that would kill them in greater numbers than any other place in the U.S. except prisons. Laying bare a system of immigration law and labor exploitation that values infinite growth at the expense of human beings, The Life and Death of the American Worker will forever change the conversation on labor conditions and the meaning of work.

Ranita Ray, Violent Schools: Slow Death in the American Classroom (St. Martin’s Press)

Ranita Ray is an award-winning author, sociologist and educator. As an associate professor of sociology, she holds an endowed chair at the University of New Mexico. For 15 years, Ray has researched youth, education, and gender and racial injustice. Her first book, The Making of a Teenage Service Class, won four prizes and is widely used across classrooms. She was a 2019 National Academy of Education Spencer Fellow.

Violent Schools is an unflinching exposé of the American public education system’s indifference toward Black, brown, immigrant, queer and economically marginalized children. Ranita Ray takes readers behind closed classroom doors where routine indifference, verbal abuse, and emotional, psychological and cultural violence from teachers and administrators plague the most vulnerable children. Underpinned by new research in the social sciences, Violent Schools combines Ray’s three-year immersion in one of the nation’s largest school districts with interviews and archival research. While gun violence in schools is a prominent American evil that we are rightly preoccupied with, it overshadows the “slow violence” inside classrooms that preys on the minds, spirits and bodies of many more youths.

Jessica Slice, Unfit Parent: On the Barriers and Brilliance of Raising Kids While Disabled and Chronically Ill (Beacon Press)

Jessica Slice is a disabled author, speaker and essayist who has been published in Modern Love, Alice Wong’s bestselling Disability Visibility, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Hippocampus. Her picture book about families with disabilities, This is How We Play, will be released in September2024 by Dial; her book about dating while disabled, Dateable: Swiping Right, Hooking Up, and Settling Down While Chronically Ill and Disabled, will be published in July 2024 by Hachette. She earned her B.A. from Davidson College and her M.S.W. from Columbia University. She lives in Ontario with her family.

Unfit Parent explores the social realities of being a disabled parent (child removal, lack of access, forced sterilization), but also considers what disability culture has to offer to the tangled mess of isolated and consumeristic parenting. In Unfit Parent, Jessica Slice uses disabled parenting as a lens through which to explore creativity, mutual aid, adaptation and acceptance. Slice argues that our obsession with perfectionism in body and mind is a doomed distraction from our collective truth: we are fragile, and we belong to one another.

Nilo Tabrizy and Khadijah Heydari, For the Sun After Long Nights: The Story of Iran’s Women-Led Uprising (Pantheon)

Nilo Tabrizy is a journalist and writer based in New York. She’s currently a reporter on the Visual Forensics team at The Washington Post where she focuses on open-source investigative reporting. Previously, Nilo was a video journalist at The New York Times where she reported on Iran, race and policing, and abortion access. She is a winner of the Front Page Award for Online Investigative Reporting (2022), the POY 79 Award of Excellence (2021) and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (2016). Tabrizy is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and received her bachelor’s degree in political science and French from the University of British Columbia.

Khadijah Heydari is the pseudonym of a journalist who was living in Iran during the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests from 2022-2023.

For the Sun After Long Nights is a look at the political upheaval in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, also known as Jina Amini, in the custody of the morality police in September 2022. Co-written by two Iranian journalists, one covering the movement from inside the country and the other from abroad, this book brings the voices of women fighting for their country to the foreground. Blending traditional reportage with cultural memoir, For the Sun After Long Nights is at once a sweeping history of sisterhood and a story of fierce friendship under the most extreme circumstances.

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000):

The J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize recognizes superb examples of book-length 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, 2023. Judges this year: Masha Gessen (chair), Kurt Andersen, Suzy Hansen and Linda Villarosa.Covers of the five books shortlisted for the 2024 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

Kerry Howley, Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs: A Journey Through the Deep State (Knopf)

Kerry Howley is a feature writer at New York magazine and the author of Thrown, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and pick for best-of-the-year lists in Time, Salon, Slate, The New York Times Magazine and many other venues. A Lannan Foundation Fellow, she holds an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, where she was a professor at the celebrated Nonfiction Writing Program until joining New York. She lives in Los Angeles.

A wild, humane and hilarious meditation on post-privacy America, Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs tells the true story of intelligence specialist Reality Winner, a lone young woman who stuffs a state secret under her skirt and trusts the wrong people to help. After printing five pages of dangerous information that she was never supposed to see, Winner finds herself at the mercy of forces more invasive than she could have possibly imagined. A soap opera set in the “Deep State,” Bottoms Up and the Devil Laughs is a free fall into a world where everything is recorded and nothing is sacred, from a singular writer unafraid to ask essential questions about the strangeness of modern life.

Cara McGoogan, Blood Farm: The Explosive Big Pharma Scandal that Altered the AIDS Crisis (Diversion Books)

Cara McGoogan is an award-winning journalist and host of the podcast “Bed of Lies,” which investigates British scandals. Her first series exposed romantic relationships between undercover police and the left-wing activists they were spying on. The second, which developed into Blood Farm, uncovered how U.S. pharmaceutical companies manufactured and sold a contaminated treatment for hemophilia. McGoogan received the 2022 Stern-Bryan Fellowship at The Washington Post, two UK Press Awards, and the British Journalism Award. She is The Telegraph’s first audio journalist and has a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. She lives in London.

By the mid-1980’s, AIDS paranoia was so rampant that a fearful, prejudiced public ignored stories of gay men falling ill. Then an HIV-positive population emerged that included Ken Dixon, Brad Cross and Ryan White, who were infected as early as ten years old. But how? Unbeknownst to doctors and patients, companies like Bayer, Baxter and Armour collected plasma on skid row, in night clubs and in America’s prisons to make Factor VIII, a miracle treatment for hemophilia. Companies knowingly put patients at high risk of HIV, but since miracles are a lucrative business, they sold an infected product and played Russian roulette with the lives of hemophiliacs. The results were catastrophic. In Blood Farm, Cara McGoogan exposes corporate greed and negligence that led to one of the biggest, overlooked scandals in history: how a miracle treatment became a deadly poison.

Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson, American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 

Cameron McWhirter is a national reporter for The Wall Street Journal, based in Atlanta. He has covered mass shootings, violent protests and natural disasters across the South. He is also the author of Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America. Previously, he reported for other publications in the U.S., as well as in Bosnia, Iraq and Ethiopia.

Zusha Elinson is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covers America’s gun culture and industry. He is based in Northern California.

In American Gun, Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson track the AR-15 from inception to ubiquity. How did the same gun represent the essence of freedom to millions of Americans and the essence of evil to millions more? To answer this question, McWhirter and Elinson follow Eugene Stoner, the inventor of the AR-15, as he struggled to win support for his invention. Shunned by gun owners at first, the rifle’s popularity would take off thanks to a renegade band of small-time gun makers. In the 2000s, it would become the weapon of choice for mass shooters, prompting widespread calls for proscription even as the gun industry embraced it as a financial savior. McWhirter and Elinson explore America’s gun culture, revealing the deep appeal of the AR-15, the havoc it wreaks and the politics of reducing its toll.

Joe Sexton, The Lost Sons of Omaha: Two Young Men in an American Tragedy (Scribner)

Joe Sexton, as a senior editor at The New York Times and ProPublica, has directed six projects awarded Pulitzer Prizes, including the award for breaking news for his staff’s coverage of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s downfall. He has shared in three Emmy Awards for documentary films, one of them for a harrowing look at the reemergence of violent white supremacists in America. As a reporter, he has covered sports, politics, and the country’s criminal justice system. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing. Sexton is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn and the father of four daughters.

In The Lost Sons of Omaha, Joe Sexton presents a searing account of two tragic, linked deaths stemming from the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. In unpacking the twisted chronicle, Sexton sheds light on some of the most pressing issues facing America today, including our country’s broken criminal justice system, the failure to are for the men and women who fight our wars, the dangerous spread of misinformation, particularly on social media, and the urgent need to band together in the collective pursuit of truth, fairness and healing.

Dashka Slater, Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Dashka Slater has written for such publications as The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek and Salon. Her New York Times-bestselling true crime book for teens, The 57 Bus, received numerous accolades, including the Stonewall Book Award, the California Book Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. It was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time” and was included on more than 20 “best books of the year” lists. The author of books for children and adults, Slater teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Oakland, California.

Accountable, the winner of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, recounts the story of a racist social media account that changes everything for a group of teens. When a high school student started a private Instagram account that used racist and sexist memes to make his friends laugh, he thought of it as “edgy” humor. Over time, the edge got sharper. Then other kids found out about the account. Soon, everyone knew. Ultimately no one in the town of Albany, California, was safe from the repercussions of the account’s discovery. In the end, no one was laughing. And everyone was left asking: Where does accountability end for online speech that harms, and what does accountability even mean?

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, 2023. Judges: William G. Thomas III (chair), Marcia Chatelain, Andrés Reséndez and Elizabeth Taylor.Covers of the five books shortlisted for the 2024 Mark Lynton History Prize

Gary J. Bass, Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia (Knopf) 

Gary J. Bass is the author of The Blood Telegram, which was a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist in general nonfiction and won the Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bernard Schwartz Book Award from the Asia Society, the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature, and the Lionel Gelber Prize, among other awards. He is the William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War at Princeton University. His previous books are Freedom’s Battle and Stay the Hand of Vengeance. He has written for The Economist, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, the Atlantic, and other publications.

Judgment at Tokyo is a landmark history of the trial of Japan’s leaders as war criminals — the overlooked Asian counterpart to Nuremberg. After World War II, the victorious Allies insisted on putting Japan’s wartime leaders on trial for aggression at Pearl Harbor and shocking atrocities across Asia. The Allies intended for the tribunal to build a more peaceful world under international law and American hegemony. On trial, Japanese leaders retorted that they had fought to liberate Asia from Western imperialism and that the court was victors’ justice. For more than two years, lawyers sparred before clashing Chinese, Indian, Philippine, American, and Soviet judges. Rather than clarity, the trial brought dissension and division that cause international discord between China, Japan and Korea to this day. The product of a decade of research and writing, Judgment at Tokyo is a magisterial history of the years that shaped postwar Asia.

Ned Blackhawk, The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History (Yale University Press)

Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone) is the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, where he is the faculty coordinator for the Yale Group for the Study of Native America. He is the author of Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

The most enduring feature of U.S. history has been the presence of Native Americans. Yet most American histories give scant attention to how Native Americans have shaped American history, even though Indigenous history has grown into one of the 21st century’s most dynamic fields of historical inquiry. The Rediscovery of America retells the history of America from the first decades of Spanish colonial exploration to the rise of Native American self-determination in the late 20th century, showing that Native history remains essential to understanding the evolution of modern America. Historian Ned Blackhawk interweaves Native and non-Native histories to expose the centrality of Native Americans to every century of North American historical development: European colonization in the 1600s was never a predetermined success; Native nations centrally shaped England’s crisis of empire; the American Revolution’s first shots occurred over Indian affairs in the interior; and the federal government built much of its administrative capacities in the 19th century through treaty-making and related Indian policies. Accessible and up to date, The Rediscovery of America is one of the few attempts to synthesize over five centuries of Native American history.

Jonathan Eig, King: A Life (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Jonathan Eig is a former senior writer for The Wall Street Journal. He is a New York Timesbestselling author of several books, including Ali: A Life, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season. Ken Burns calls him “a master storyteller,” and Eig’s books have been listed among the best of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Slate. He lives in Chicago with his wife and children.

Vividly written and exhaustively researched, King: A Life is the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. In this revelatory new portrait of the preacher and activist who shook the world, Eig gives us an intimate view of the courageous and often emotionally troubled human being who demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself. As he follows MLK from the classroom to the pulpit to the streets of Birmingham, Selma and Memphis, Eig dramatically re-creates the journey of a man who recast American race relations and became our only modern-day founding father — as well as the nation’s most mourned martyr. King: A Life mixes revelatory new research with accessible storytelling to offer an MLK for our times: a deep thinker, a brilliant strategist and a committed radical who led one of history’s greatest movements, and whose demands for racial and economic justice remain as urgent today as they were in his lifetime.

Dylan C. Penningroth, Before the Movement: The Hidden History of Black Civil Rights (Liveright/W.W. Norton)

Dylan C. Penningroth is a professor of law and history at the University of California, Berkeley. A MacArthur Prize fellow and author of The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South, he lives in Kensington, California.

In Before the Movement, historian Dylan C. Penningroth revises the conventional story of the civil rights movement. Drawing on long-forgotten sources found in the basements of courthouses across the nation, Penningroth reveals that African Americans, far from being ignorant about law until the middle of the 20th century, used it going as far back as even the era of slavery. They dealt constantly with the laws of property, contract, inheritance, marriage and divorce, and more. By exercising these “rights of everyday use,” Penningroth demonstrates, they made Black rights seem unremarkable. In innumerable subtle ways, they helped shape the law itself — the laws all of us live under today. Penningroth’s narrative challenges accepted understandings of Black history framed by relations with white people and puts Black people at the center of the story. Before the Movement is an account of Black legal lives that looks beyond the Constitution and the criminal justice system to recover a rich, broader vision of Black life — a vision allied with, yet distinct from, “the freedom struggle.”

Yepoka Yeebo, Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World (Bloomsbury) 

Yepoka Yeebo’s work has appeared in The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek and Quartz. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London and of Columbia Journalism School, she divides her time between Accra and London. Anansi’s Gold is her first book.

Anansi’s Gold tells the never-before-told story of how an audacious Ghanaian con artist pulled off one of the 20th century’s longest-running and most spectacular frauds. After Ghana won its independence from Britain in 1957, a CIA-funded military junta ousted the new nation’s inspiring president, Kwame Nkrumah, then falsely accused him of hiding the country’s gold overseas. Into this big lie stepped one of history’s most charismatic scammers, a con man to rival the trickster god Anansi. Born into poverty in Ghana and trained in the United States, John Ackah Blay-Miezah declared himself custodian of an alleged Nkrumah trust fund worth billions. Through the 1970s and ’80s, he and his accomplices scammed hundreds of millions of dollars out of thousands of believers. In Anansi’s Gold, Yepoka Yeebo chases Blay-Miezah’s ever-wilder trail and discovers, at long last, what really happened to Ghana’s missing wealth, unfolding a riveting account of Cold War entanglements, international finance and postcolonial betrayal.


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The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism, promotes innovation and elevates the standards of the profession. More than 1,700 journalists from 100countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation also publishes Nieman Reports, a website and print magazine covering thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Journalism Lab, a website reporting on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website showcasing exceptional narrative journalism and nonfiction storytelling. | @niemanfdn