Campus & Community

Columbia, Nieman name Lukas Prize Project Awards

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The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University have announced this year’s winners of the Lukas Prize Project Awards. The awards, established in 1998, recognize excellence in nonfiction books that exemplify the literary grace and commitment to serious research and social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s Pulitzer Prize-winning namesake J. Anthony Lukas, who died in 1997.

The 2008 awardees include a vividly revealing journey into the inner chambers of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin; a moving and morally complex meditation on the origins of the American identity during the Revolution and Seven Years’ War by Peter Silver; and a gripping global narrative showing how women’s rights are at the core of the world’s most urgent struggles by Michelle Goldberg. Patricia Limerick will present the awards at a May 13 ceremony at the Nieman Foundation. Colin and Joan Diver, representing one of three families that are major subjects of J. Anthony Lukas’ Pulitzer Prize-winning work, “Common Ground,” which chronicles the battle over school integration in Boston, will speak on the experience of having a writer tell their story.

The prize given to Silver is the Mark Lynton History Prize, named for the late business executive and author of “Accidental Journey: A Cambridge Internee’s Memoir of World War II.” Lynton was an avid proponent of the writing of history, and the Lynton family has sponsored the Lukas Prize Project since its inception.

Following are the winners and the judges’ citations for the three Lukas Awards:

Jeffrey Toobin for “The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court” (Doubleday). The judges remarked: “Jeffrey Toobin tells the story of the Conservative rebellion that has transformed the character of the court, one justice at a time. As Justice Stephen Breyer said from the bench last June, dissenting from a decision that erodes school desegregation, ‘It is not often in law that so few have so quickly changed so much.’ In the tradition of J. Anthony Lukas, Toobin has written a work of great narrative journalism in which the particular and the personal illuminate an historic moment. ‘The Nine’ is a masterful group portrait of the justices who will decide what justice means in America.”

Peter Silver for “Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America” (W.W. Norton & Company). The judges noted that “Peter Silver’s brilliant analysis of frontier violence in the era of the Seven Years’ War and the Revolution disturbingly suggests that they depended first of all on the creation of a terrifying enemy. In compulsively readable, quicksilver prose, he shows how ethnically and religiously fragmented settler groups who in times of peace shared little beyond mutual dislike and distrust found common ground in their fear of Indians and came to think of themselves less as English or Scots or Germans than as white people — and Americans — under the pressure of war.”

The winner of the Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, given each year to assist in the completion of a significant work of narrative nonfiction on an American topic of political or social concern, is Michelle Goldberg for “The Means of Reproduction” (to be published by the Penguin Press in 2009). “‘The Means of Reproduction’ is a book of vaulting ambition and intellectual passion,” noted the judges for the award, and “Michelle Goldberg looks at literally the entire world through the prism of women’s issues and women’s rights. From abortion to female circumcision, from sexual trafficking to abstinence-only programs, from Poland to Ethiopia to Nicaragua, she examines the conflict between self-determination and patriarchal tradition. And, in case after case, she contends, a conservative American administration, theologically and pragmatically bound to fundamentalist Christianity, plays either a direct or indirect role. In the tradition of Anthony Lukas, Michelle Goldberg explores vast issues through individual lives.”