The 2021 Kukula Award Winners

This first-of-its-kind prize celebrates the best in nonfiction book reviewing and honors Kukula Kapoor Glastris, the magazine’s longtime and beloved books editor.

The Washington Monthly magazine is proud to announce the two winners of its 2021 Kukula Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Book Reviewing—the only journalism prize dedicated to highlighting and encouraging high-quality reviews of serious, public affairs-focused books. The award honors the memory of the late Kukula Kapoor Glastris, the magazine’s longtime and beloved books editor.

In our larger publications category, the winner is Carlos Lozada, in The Washington Post, for his review of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” by Robin DiAngelo.

In our smaller publications category, the prize goes to Sophie Haigney, in High Country News, for her review of “Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country,” by Sierra Crane Murdoch.

A panel of seven judges—veteran journalists, editors, and authors—selected the winners and eight other finalists from more than 125 outstanding submissions published in a range of print and online media outlets in 2020. Winners were honored for their clear and artful exposition, original and persuasive thesis, and ability to enlighten readers with new and valuable information. Judges gave priority to works of politics, public affairs, history, and biography.

“In a short, courageous review of a bestselling book on the subject of racism,” said judge Suzannah Lessard of the first winning entry, “Carlos Lozada both articulates the flaw in the underlying premise and elegantly gestures toward a more effective philosophy.” Gregg Easterbrook, a fellow judge, noted the book and many other recent titles on structural racism “tackle the #1 issue of our moment, and it’s critically important that writers and reviewers figure out what to make of the competing claims.”

“Sophie Haigney unspools the details of an incredibly complex murder story in the Indian country of North Dakota with grace and narrative authority,” said judge Marianne Szegedy-Maszak of the second winning entry. “She captures both a sense of place and a sense of the book, not an easy task under any circumstances, but especially when the book is a demanding story.”

“These two winners set a standard that all of us who work in this field of serious nonfiction book reviewing should challenge ourselves to meet,” said Washington Monthly editor in chief Paul Glastris, Kukula’s husband of 31 years.

Lozada and Haigney each will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Other finalists for the 2021 Kukula Award in the large publications category were Maggie Doherty in The New Yorker, for her poetic review of “The Power of Adrienne Rich” by Hilary Holladay; Patrick Iber in The New Republic, for his sweeping review of “Reaganland” by Rick Perlstein; Daniel Immerwahr in The Nation, for his illuminating review of “The United States of War” by David Vine; and Nick Romeo in The Washington Post, for his timely review of “Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory” by Claudio Saunt.

Among smaller publications, honorable mentions went to Morten Høi Jensen in Commonweal, for his beautiful review of “On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives” by Andrew H. Miller; Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein in The Baffler, for his fascinating review of “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention” by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer; Emma Larkin in Mekong Review, for her informative review of “Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok” by Thongchai Winichakul; and Melvyn Leffler in Foreign Affairs, for his authoritative review of “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq” by Robert Draper.

In a year of historic challenges and social upheaval, these reviews illuminated core and key issues—from racial injustice to the dangers of tech monopolies, from political party realignment and grievance to America’s entanglement in endless wars. Across these topics, “the aim of the Kukula Award is to highlight the work of the talented individuals who practice the undervalued craft of nonfiction book criticism—work Kukula devoted herself to editing and publishing for many years,” said Glastris.

About our Judges

Debra Dickerson, essayist, Washington Monthlyeditorial advisory board member, and author most recently ofThe End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners.”

Gregg Easterbrook, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Washington Monthlycontributing editor, and author of“Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear”and 12 other books.

Christina Larson, global science & environment correspondent for the Associated Press. During seven years in Beijing, she wrote for Science magazine and Bloomberg, among others. Previously, she was an editor and writer at Foreign Policy magazine and the Washington Monthly.

Suzannah Lessard, one of the original writers at the Washington Monthly, and author of “The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family” and “The Absent Hand: Reimagining our American Landscape.” She is currently at work on her next book and engaged in Consensus, an initiative to support innovative reportorial nonfiction.

Phillip Longman, senior editor at the Washington Monthly and policy director at the Open Markets Institute. He is the author of “The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to do About It” and numerous other books.  

Amy Sullivan, a journalist and former senior editor for TIME, the Washington Monthly, and Yahoo. She is the author of “The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap.”

Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, editorial operations director of Mother Jones andformer senior writer atU.S. News & World Report. She has ghost written seven memoirs as well as her own family’s memoir, “I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary.”

About Kukula Kapoor Glastris

The beloved and brilliant books editor of the Washington Monthly, Kukula (“Kuku” to her legions of friends and fans) made the book review section the home of some of the magazine’s best thinking and writing. A keen editor and diplomatic manager of writers, she served as den mother and provisioner of delicious late-night home-cooked meals to a generation of young Washington Monthly journalists. “I’ve never met anyone whose combination of personal goodness, plus intellectual and professional abilities, exceeded Kukula’s,” the journalist James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic.

To learn more about Kukula’s life, please read “Kuku: A Love Story.”

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