The Washington Monthly magazine is proud to announce the winners of its 2022 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 beloved books editor.
In our larger publications category, the winner is Laura Miller, in Slate, for her deeply affecting review of Lucky, a memoir by Alice Sebold.
In our smaller publications category, the prize goes to Aidan Forth, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, for his timely and important review of two books by Darren Byler, In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colonyand Terror Capitalism: Uyghur Dispossession and Masculinity in a Chinese City.
The winners have been invited to appear on C-SPAN’s Book TV program “About Books,” airing Sunday, June 26, at 7:30pm ET. This program will also be available as a podcast.
A panel of seven judges—veteran journalists, editors, and authors—selected the winners and eight other finalists from more than 80 outstanding submissions published in a range of print and online media outlets in 2021. 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 public affairs, politics, history, and biography.
“Laura Miller strikes the perfect tone in this very tricky reconsideration of Alice Sebold’s memoir in light of her identifying the wrong man as her rapist,” said judge Walter Shapiro, of the first winning entry. Suzannah Lessard, another judge, called Miller’s review “daring and original and way off the beaten path. It was a brave and constructive piece to write that resonates through the memoir movement and the culture,” she said.
Aidan Forth’s review, noted judge Markos Kounalakis, is “broad in sweep and informed on—and informative about—a complex and distant subject. Forth also needs to marry two books into a single narrative review, which is more challenging.” Christina Larson, a judge and a former Beijing correspondent, agreed that Forth’s account adds important insights to the discussion about political repression in China today.
“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.
Miller and Forth each will receive a $1,000 cash prize.
Other finalists for the 2022 Kukula Award in the large publications category this year were:
- Deborah Friedell in the London Review of Books, for her sensitive review of Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker
- Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post, for his incisive review of The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman, and Jake Silverstein
- Andre Ricardo Diniz Pagliarini in The New Republic, for his important review of Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Serhii Plokhy, and
- Katy Waldman in the New Yorker, for her enlightening review of Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s ‘Girl Stunt Reporters’, by Kim Todd
Among smaller publications, the judges’ finalists were:
- Zoe Hu in Jewish Currents, for her evocative review of The Loneliest Americans, by Jay Caspian Kang
- Robert Allen Papinchak in the Los Angeles Review of Books, for his delightful review of Rock Me On The Water: 1974—The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics, by Ronald Brownstein
- Becca Rothfeld in the Boston Review, for her ambitious review covering three new books on feminism, sexual ethics, and desire, Citadels of Pride, The Right to Sex, and Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again, by Martha C. Nussbaum, Amia Srinivasan, and Katherine Angel, and
- Maureen Tkacik in The American Prospect, for her authoritative review of Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing, by Peter Robison
“Nonfiction book reviewing plays a key role in transmitting hard-won reporting, research, and ideas on major issues to policymakers and citizens who can’t possibly read more than a fraction of the important books published each year,” said Glastris. This year’s winning reviews illuminated many such issues—from our flawed criminal justice system to the ongoing reckoning with racial injustice in America, from shameful human rights abuses in China to a reassessment of Asian American identity, and from deadly corporate malfeasance to one family’s painful struggle with mental illness. 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 the Kukula Award Judges
Debra Dickerson is an essayist, Washington Monthly editorial advisory board member, and author, most recently, of The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners.
Gregg Easterbrook is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Washington Monthly contributing editor. He was a staff writer, national correspondent or contributing editor of The Atlantic for nearly 40 years, and the author of more than a dozen books, including his most recent, The Blue Age: How the US Navy Created Global Prosperity—And Why We’re in Danger of Losing It.
Markos Kounalakis is president and publisher emeritus of the Washington Monthly, and an award-winning, nationally syndicated foreign affairs columnist, analyst, author, and scholar. He is a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a Senior Fellow at the Center on Media, Data, and Society at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. His latest collection of essays, Freedom Isn’t Free: The Price of World Order, is out now from Anthem Press. Markos also currently serves as the Second Gentleman of California.
Christina Larson is an award-winning science writer and foreign correspondent. Previously based in Beijing, she covered China’s science and technology industries and increasing political repression. Larson began her journalism career as an editor and writer at the Washington Monthly.
Suzannah Lessard, one of the original writers at the Washington Monthly, is the 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 is engaged in Consensus, an initiative to support innovative reportorial nonfiction.
Walter Shapiro is a veteran political journalist, staff writer at The New Republic, and a columnist for Roll Call. He is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a lecturer in political science at Yale. Shapiro, a Washington Monthly contributing editor, is the author of Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer, about his con man great-uncle.
Amy Sullivan is an award-winning journalist who has written about politics, religion, and women as a senior editor for national outlets including Time, National Journal, Yahoo, and the Washington Monthly.
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 Monthly journalists. “I’ve never met anyone whose combination of personal goodness, plus intellectual and professional abilities, exceeded Kukula’s,” journalist James Fallows wrote at The Atlantic.
Born in Tibet to an Indian diplomat who helped the Dalai Lama escape and then took the same route himself—on horseback over the Himalayas—with his family, including his two year old daughter, Kuku spent her childhood in India, Senegal, Syria, Germany and Switzerland, before moving to the United States to attend Indiana University. Over a wide-ranging career, Kuku was a TV talk-show producer in Chicago, a staffer at Ralph Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive Law in Washington, and a reporter in the Chicago bureau of U.S. News & World Report.
Married 31 years to her life partner and best friend, Paul Glastris, Editor in Chief of the Washington Monthly, she viewed their children, Hope and Adam, as her greatest accomplishments.
Kukula died in August 2017 at age 59 of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. To honor her remarkable legacy, her family, friends, and colleagues contributed to a memorial fund that supports this book award. To learn more about Kukula’s life, please see Kuku: A Love Story or tributes from people who knew and loved her at LifePosts.com.