Bestselling Author │ Journalist │ Documentary Filmmaker
Alex Kotlowitz is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author, who has been exploring issues of race and poverty in America for over twenty years. His 1991 book There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America
(Doubleday) garnered national recognition for its compassionate and unflinching portrait of Pharoah and Lafeyette Rivers and their lives gro
wing up in a public housing project in inner city Chicago.
"No other book, no movie, no TV show so powerfully portrays the children and families who are outside the American dream."
Selling 700,000 copies since its publication, There Are No Children Here
was selected by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 Most Important Books of the 20th Century and is taught at high schools, colleges and universities across the nation. It has received many awards, including the Helen B. Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Carl Sandburg Award and a Christopher Award. In 1993, it was made into a television movie starring Oprah Winfrey, bringing the story to an even wider audience. Most impressive of all is the fact that, twenty years later, this remarkable book continues to sell upwards of 15,000 copies each year.
Continuing his inquiry into social issues in America, Kotlowitz’s new documentary The Interrupters
—a collaboration with Hoop Dreams
director/producer Steve James—examines the stubborn persistence of urban violence and was praised by A.O. Scott for its ability to “open up” the topic of urban violence and not limit the story to “the comforting clarity of easy conclusions.” The film debuted to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and appeared as a two-hour special on Frontline
. It was cited as one of the best films of the year by The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, The LA Times
and Entertainment Weekly
, and received the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary.
“For ordinary moviegoers in search of an enthralling experience, this film [is] heroically life-affirming.”
Kotlowitz is also the author of The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death and America’s Dilemma
(Anchor Press, 1999), which examined the circumstances behind the mysterious death of Eric McGinnis, a black teenager, in St. Joseph, Michigan—a primarily white town across the river from his home in the primarily black town of Benton Harbor. The book, which won The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, explores the myths and misperceptions around race in contemporary America.
His most recent book, Never a City So Real
, introduces us to the people of Chicago who have been his guide into the city’s—and by inference, this country’s—heart. The Chicago Sun-Times
called it “a fine successor to Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make
as a song to our rough-and-tumble, broken-nosed city.”
In addition to his books, Alex Kotlowitz is a seasoned journalist whose work extends beyond print to include TV and radio. From 1984 to 1993 Kotlowitz was a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal
where he wrote on urban affairs and social policy. He regularly contributes to The New York Times Magazine
and NPR’s This American Life
and his articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic
Kotlowitz is currently a writer-in-residence at Northwestern University. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and served as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College.
Alex Kotlowitz’s writings are on the reading lists at many institutions and are particularly popular in programs focusing on social work, education, psychology, urban affairs, race, housing issues and journalism. He is sought after for his lectures on social issues and storytelling, and has presented at hundreds of organizations and universities—from Harvard to Oregon State, from Princeton to Wooster College. He has keynoted for numerous conferences including those of the Neighborhood Housing Services, the Federal Reserve (both in Chicago and Cleveland), the National Association of Social Workers and the National Scholastic Press Association, and has given numerous commencement addresses. He is the recipient of seven honorary degrees.
A graduate of Wesleyan University, Mr. Kotlowitz grew up in New York City and now lives with his family just outside Chicago. He is currently working on a documentary on low-wage workers for Al Jazeera America. Selected Lecture Topics
- The Things They Carry: Growing Up Poor in the World’s Richest Nation
- America's Dilemma: Why Race Still Matters
- Rebuilding community
- Bearing Witness: Storytelling and Human Rights
- The Journalism of Empathy: The Craft of Nonfiction Storytelling
Selected Documentary Work
- Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago (Crown, 2004)
- The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America’s Dilemma (Anchor Press, 1998)
- There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America (Doubleday, 1991)
- The Interrupters (Kartemquin Films, 2011)
- Let's Get Married (Frontline, 2002)
2012 Independent Spirit Award, Best Documentary (The Interrupters)
2004 Thurgood Marshall Journalism Award (The New York Times Magazine
2002 George Foster Peabody Award for Journalism (radio)
1998 The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction (The Other Side of the River
1995 There Are No Children Here
selected by New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important books of the 20th century
1993 John LaFarge Memorial Award for Interracial Justice by New York’s Catholic Interracial Council
1992 Chicago Foundation for Literature Award (There Are No Children Here
1987 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Grand Prize (Wall Street Journal
1984 George Polk Award (for a piece produced for The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour
Alex Kotlowitz lectures on the topic of facing urban violence in Chicago:
Watch the trailer for Kotlowitz's documentary "The Interrupters" which premiered at Sundance earlier this year:
Indiana University, South Bend: Alex Kotlowitz audio interviewFor more information on Alex Kotlowitz and his work please go to www.alexkotlowitz.com.