The Lukas Work-in-Progress Award is given each year to assist in the completion of a significant work of narrative nonfiction on an American topic of political or social concern.
“Judy Pasternak promises to tell a narrative history of the most dramatic and profound sort. Nearly sixty years ago, mining companies descended on the Navajo nation to dig up uranium for the United States government, which was busily building up a stockpile of nuclear weapons, and in the process they turned the beautiful Navajo lands into a toxic environment, where even today there are areas with astonishingly high levels of radiation. Through original research and numerous interviews, she will document one of the darker chapters in 20th century American history. At the same time, her book will tell a moving story of the Navajo people—their love of the land, their spiritual perceptions of the world, and their own complicated involvement in the mining of the “yellow dirt.” Readers will come to intimately know four generations of a proud Navajo family, whose patriarch, Adika’i, foresaw the harm that would come to the Navajo people from this enterprise.”