Three of Our Authors Win 2019 Lukas Prizes

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The Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard have announced the winners of the 2019 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards, with three of the five prizes going to one Crown and two Penguin Press authors. They will receive their awards at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 7, at the Nieman Foundation in Cambridge, MA. Established in 1998, the Lukas Prizes recognize excellence in American nonfiction writing from both published books and works in progress on history and topics of American political or social concern.

Our winners:

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

Shane Bauer

Shane Bauer’s AMERICAN PRISON: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment (Penguin Press)

Judges’ citation: “After two years as a prisoner in Iran, Shane Bauer goes back inside jail–this time as a guard at the privately run Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana, reporting undercover with an audio recorder in his pen, a hidden camera in his thermos, and an eye for novelistic detail. The result, AMERICAN PRISON, ushers us with taut prose into a world in which inmates and guards alike are victims of a profit motive rooted in our nation’s tradition of mingling money-making with incarceration. Never losing sight of the moral complexity of Bauer’s dual role as agent and chronicler of an inhumane system, AMERICAN PRISON is a feat of narrative nonfiction that is brave, disturbing, and urgent.”

The Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000)

Andrew Delbanco

Andrew Delbanco’s THE WAR BEFORE THE WAR: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War (Penguin Press)

Judges’ citation: “In his eloquent history, Andrew Delbanco elevates fugitive slaves to center stage in antebellum America and challenges conventional wisdom about the Civil War. He focuses on the unintended consequences of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which was designed to unify the nation but paradoxically lit the fuse that split it. This overlooked chapter of American history reminds us of the enduring, devastating effects of America’s original accommodation with slavery and of the enslaved men and women who persistently risked their lives to escape bondage. They exposed what might be called America’s founding fiction that the states were ever truly “united.” Vividly written, Delbanco’s THE WAR BEFORE THE WAR conjures echoes from the past that eerily resonate today: the splintering of the two major political parties, black protests of slavery and jails, and public discourse infused with insult and invective.”

J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award ($25,000)

Maurice Chammah

Maurice Chammah’s LET THE LORD SORT THEM: Texas and the Death Penalty’s Rise and Fall in America (Crown)

Judges’ citation: “LET THE LORD SORT THEM is a powerful, deeply reported, and revelatory book. Through his account of the rise and fall of the death penalty in Texas, Chammah reveals the truth about crime and punishment in America and how the legal system actually works. Through its moving look at the human cost of the death penalty, this compassionate book follows in the best tradition of the Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards to enlarge our understanding of the great political and social issues of our time.”

Our congratulations to Mr. Bauer, Mr. Delbanco, and Mr. Chammah, as well as their editors, publishers and colleagues.


Posted: March 21, 2019