We admire this piece for the way its tone and content match its protagonist’s own qualities. Elizabeth Balraj is the exacting and dignified coroner of Cuyahoga County. Long’s writing, too, is precise and composed. We like the considered attention to theme, the juxtaposition of cold, detached dissection with the mess of death, loss and the ephemeral human body.

Balraj becomes an admirable character because Long persuades us: She wants to portray certain qualities, and builds a case for them, through scene and background. We also admire the parallel narratives, the newsworthy autopsy and the mundane one, and the piece’s insight into the democratic nature of death.

The story won the Paul L. Myhre Single Story Award in the University of Missouri’s Lifestyle Journalism Awards competition.

Read “In Balraj’s Realm,” by Karen S. Long

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