Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Alex Kotlowitz  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1955 in New York City

-- Website --
-- Alex Kotlowitz on WorldCat --

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 Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

There Are No Children Here (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)
ISBN: 0613024540

Turtleback Books. 1992

FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. Examines the lives of two inner-city brothers who live in a Chicago housing project and their daily struggle for survival and enduring hope.

The Other Side of the River (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)
ISBN: 0613150589

Turtleback Books. 1999

The book is a Hardcover not a Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition

Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago
ISBN: 0739311255

Random House Audio. 2004

The acclaimed author of There Are No Children Here takes us into the heart of Chicago by introducing us to some of the city’s most interesting, if not always celebrated, people.

Chicago is one of America’s most iconic, historic, and fascinating cities, as well as a major travel destination. For Alex Kotlowitz, an accidental Chicagoan, it is the perfect perch from which to peer into America’s heart. It’s a place, as one historian has said, of “messy vitalities,” a stew of contradictions: coarse yet gentle, idealistic yet restrained, grappling with its promise, alternately sure and unsure of itself.

Chicago, like America, is a kind of refuge for outsiders. It’s probably why Alex Kotlowitz found comfort there. He’s drawn to people on the outside who are trying to clean up—or at least make sense of—the mess on the inside. Perspective doesn’t come easy if you’re standing in the center. As with There Are No Children Here, Never a City So Real is not so much a tour of a place as a chronicle of its soul, its lifeblood. It is a tour of the people of Chicago, who have been the author’s guides into this city’s—and in a broader sense, this country’s—heart.

From the Hardcover edition.


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

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

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