Never a City So Real

Chicago is one of America’s most iconic, historic, and fascinating cities. 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 is promise, alternately sure and unsure of itself.

Chicago, like America, is a kind of refuge for outsiders – which is in part why  why Alex 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 often doesn’t come easy if you’re standing in the center. As with There Are No Children Here, this is not so much a tour of a place as a chronicle of its soul, its lifeblood. Never a City So Real is a tour of the people of Chicago, who have been his guides into this city’s – and by inference, this country’s – heart.

“The best $16 you’ll spend all summer will be on Never a City So Real…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…”

Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times

“Chicago is an awfully big place to fit into a small book, but Kotlowitz is amaster of distillation…Kotlowitz is an omnivorous observer,discerning listener, and unassuming witness to urban life…[Never a City So Real is] clear-eyed testimony to his great affection for this no-nonsense city and his infinite fascination with humankind.”

Donna Seaman, Booklist

Books

Chicago is one of America’s most iconic, historic, and fascinating cities. For Alex Kotlowitz, an accidental Chicagoan, it is the perfect perch from which to peer into America’s heart.

Separated by a river, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are two Michigan towns that are geographically close, yet worlds apart. St. Joseph is a prosperous, predominately white lakeshore community while Benton Harbor is impoverished and predominately black. When the body of Eric McGinnis, a black teenage boy from Benton Harbor, is found in the river that separates the towns, relations between the two communities grow increasingly strained as longheld misperceptions and attitudes surface. 

There Are No Children Here chronicles two years in the lives of two boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, struggling to survive in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect. 

© 2017, Alex Kotlowitz. All rights reserved