Alex Kotlowitz is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author who has been exploring issues of race and poverty in America for more than twenty years. His 1991 book, There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, garnered national recognition for its compassionate and unflinching portrait of Pharoah and Lafeyette Rivers and their lives growing up in a public housing project.
“No other book, no movie, no TV show so powerfully portrays the children and families who are outside the American dream.”
—The New Leader
A national bestseller, 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. Twenty years later, this remarkable book continues to sell upwards of 15,000 copies each year.
Kotlowitz’s documentary The Interrupters—a collaboration with Hoop Dreams director Steve James—examines the stubborn persistence of urban violence. It 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 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 Los Angeles 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.”
The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death and America’s Dilemma 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. Kotlowitz uses McGinnis’s case to speak to pervasive, insidious issues of racial injustice confronting America. The New York Times called The Other Side of the River “a vivid American microcosm, a telling tableau of the way we are.”
Never a City So Real introduces us to the people of Chicago who have been Kotlowitz’s guide into the city’s—and 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.”
A former staff writer at The Wall Street Journal, where he wrote on urban affairs and social policy, Kotlowitz regularly contributes to The New York Times Magazine and This American Life (including the Peabody Award-winning “Harper High School” double episode). His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and Granta.
Kotlowitz is currently a writer-in-residence at Northwestern University. He has also taught at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College, where he was a Montgomery Fellow.
Kotlowitz’s work is widely read in programs focusing on social work, education, psychology, urban affairs, race, housing issues, and journalism. He has lectured at hundreds of organizations and universities, including Harvard and Princeton, and has keynoted for numerous conferences, including those of the Neighborhood Housing Services, the Federal Reserve, and the National Association of Social Workers.
A graduate of Wesleyan University, Kotlowitz grew up in New York City and now lives with his family just outside Chicago. His new book, an exploration of street violence in Chicago, is out in February 2019.
For more information on Alex Kotlowitz, please visit www.alexkotlowitz.com.