Alex Kotlowitz

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General Information

Kotlowitz Alex.jpg
Name: Alex Kotlowitz

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Born: 1955 in New York City



Photo Credit: Kathy Richland

Illinois Connection

Kotlowitz lives just outside of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Alex Kotlowitz is a journalist and author. His acclaimed bestselling book There Are No Children Here is the true story of two young brothers Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers. It brings home the horror of trying to survive in a violence-ridden public housing project in Chicago. The book's title comes from a comment made by the brothers' mother as she and Kotlowitz contemplate the challenges of living in such a hostile environment. "There are no children here," she says. "They've seen too much to be children." The book humanizes the problem of inner-city pathology and makes readers care about the brothers more than they may expect to, and offeres a sliver of hope buried deep within a world of chaos.

In his second book, The Other Side of the River, Kotlowitz continues his exploration of race and poverty in America. The book examines 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 New York Times praised the book stating, "Of all the many books written about race in America in the past couple of years, none has been quite like The Other Side of the River … It is the difference between the two towns, one white, one black, that anchors this story, give it its soul, and makes it important, essential even, for the rest of us to contemplate."

Kotlowitz’s book, Never a City So Real, is a portrait of Chicago and takes readers on a tour of one of America’s most iconic and historic cities. 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 contributor to The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and public radio’s This American Life, Kotlowitz received a Peabody for his Stories of Home a collections of personal narratives for Chicago Public Radio. He has also served as a correspondant and writer for a Frontline documentary and PBS’s Media Matters. His articles have also appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and The New Republic.

Kotlowitz also teaches courses at Northwestern Illinois University and is a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame. He has also been a writer-in-residence at the University of Chicago.

Published Works

  • There Are No Children Here, Anchor, 1991
  • The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death and America’s Dilemma, Anchor, 1998
  • Never A City So Real, Crown Publishing, 2004

Titles at Your Library

There Are No Children Here (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

ISBN: 0613024540
Release Date: 1992-01-05

Find on World Cat

The Other Side of the River (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

ISBN: 0613150589
Release Date: 1999-01-19

Find on World Cat

Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago

ISBN: 0739311255
Release Date: 2004-07-06

Find on World Cat

Literary Awards

There Are No Children Here

  • Helen B. Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism
  • Carl Sandburg Award
  • Christopher Award
  • One of the 150 most important books of the 20th century, New York Public Library
  • Adapted for television as an ABC Movie-of-the-Week starring Oprah Winfrey, 1993

The Other Side of the River

  • Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction, Chicago Tribune
  • Great Lakes Booksellers Award for Non-Fiction

Body of Work

  • Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 1998
  • Keynote Speaker, Illinois Authors Book Fair, Illinois State Library and Illinois Center for the Book, 2005

Speaking Engagements and Upcoming Appearances

Speaking Engagement Availability: Yes, for media inquiries and speaking engagements please send email to:

External Links

Alex Kotlowitz on WorldCat


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