Indian-American journalist and writer Akash Kapur has been named one of the six recipients of the 2018 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant. Kapur, who is writing a book exploring two troubling deaths in his family and the community where he grew up and returned to live as an adult, will receive $40,000 (Rs 29 lakh) from the Whiting Foundation.

The judges said Kapur’s book, titled Better to Have Gone, “is a moving fusion of memoir, history, and ethnography that will inject new life into these forms”.

“As an investigation into an unsolved mystery, it is compelling; as a meditation on the promise and the limitations of utopianism, it could have global resonance,” they added. “The writing is unornamented, plangent, and affecting. By evoking the everyday in precise detail, Kapur brings utopianism as lived practice to technicolor life. In attempting to locate the shifting border between extremism and idealism, he has written a book rooted in memory but in dialogue with the present day.”

The grant assists multi-year book projects “after significant work has been accomplished but when an extra infusion of support can make a difference in the ultimate shape and quality of the work”, the foundation said.

Kapur, who grew up in Auroville near Puducherry, is the author of India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India, which was selected by The New Yorker and The New Republic as one of the best books of 2012 and was nominated for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize in 2013. He is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University’s The GovLab.

The other writers who will receive the grant are journalists Jennifer Block, Andrea Elliott and Jori Lewis, writer and musician Sarah Ramey and writer Jess Row.