Alex Kotlowitz is the author of three books, including the national bestseller There Are No Children Here, which the New York Public Library selected as one of the 150 most important books of the twentieth century. It received the Helen Bernstein Award, the Carl Sandburg Award and a Christopher Award, and was adapted as a television movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey. It was selected as a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times.
The Other Side of the River received The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize and the Great Lakes Booksellers Award for Nonfiction, and was also selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times which said of the book, “It’s important, essential even, for the rest of us to contemplate.” Of Never a City So Real, one critic wrote, “It’s a fine successor to Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make as a song to our rough-and-tumble, broken-nosed city.”
Alex’s documentary The Interrupters (a collaboration with Steve James) premiered at Sundance in January 2011, and aired as a two-hour special on PBS’s Frontline. It was cited as one of the best films of the year by The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly and The LA Times. One reviewer wrote, “It tears at your heart…and makes you believe that change is possible.” The film received an Emmy, an Independent Spirit Award and a Cinema Eye Award.
A former staff writer at The Wall Street Journal, Alex has long been a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine and public radio’s This American Life. His stories, which one reviewer wrote “inform the heart”, have also appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Rolling Stone, The Chicago Tribune, Slate and The Washington Post, as well as on PBS (Frontline, the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour and Media Matters) and on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. He’s been honored in all three mediums, including some of journalism’s major prizes: a George Foster Peabody Award (radio), the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award (print), the George Polk Award (television) and (twice) a Columbia duPont Award (radio and television.) His play An Unobstructed View (co-authored with Amy Drozdowska) premiered in Chicago in June of 2005.
About his work, one critic wrote, “Kotlowitz is an omnivorous observer, discerning listener, and unassuming witness to urban life.”
Alex has been a Distinguished Visitor at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and is the recipient of eight honorary degrees and the John LaFarge Memorial Award for Interracial Justice given by New York’s Catholic Interracial Council. He regularly gives lectures and talks around the country. He’s taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame and Dartmouth College, and is currently a writer-in-residence and senior lecturer at Northwestern University where he’s been teaching since 1999.
Alex grew up in New York City and attended Wesleyan University. After a year-long stint on a cattle ranch, he took his first journalism job at a small alternative weekly in Lansing, Michigan.
He lives just outside Chicago with his wife, Maria Woltjen, who directs the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, and their two children, Mattie and Lucas.