The Other Side of the River

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. 

As family, friends, and the police struggle to find out how and why McGinnis died, Alex  uncovers layers of both evidence and opinion, and demonstrates that in many ways, the truth is shaped by which side of the river you call home.

The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction
The Great Lakes Booksellers’ Award

“A vivid American microcosm, a telling tableau of the way we are….Alex Kotlowitz’s nuanced and absorbing account of the mysterious death of a young black man in southwestern Michigan … (is) important, essential even, for the rest of us to contemplate.”

The New York Times

“Kotlowitz writes with absolutely perfect pitch…[his] masterly investigation ultimately reveals the tragedy of racial stereotypes.”

Christian Science Monitor

“Alex Kotlowitz’s nuanced and absorbing account of the mysterious death of a young black man in southwestern Michigan in 1991…(is) important, essential even, for the rest of us to contemplate.”

Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

“A densely, realistic, humane portrait.”

The New Yorker

“An accomplished, absorbing work of storytelling…Kotlowitz has achieved something notable.”

Detroit Free Press

“Kotlowitz is a brilliant reporter and observer who presents fully rounded, sympathetic portraits of individuals on both sides of the river.”

Entertainment Weekly

“I was impressed and enthralled…This book has suspense and style, and the delight of real substance presented with grace….a work of great narrative power, superb reporting, and profound empathy – in other words, a joy.”

Scott Turow

“Yet again Alex Kotlowitz extends the boundaries of documentary exploration with brilliant success. He has given us an engaging, knowing, probing, thoroughly accessible moral narrative, a story of a river that is an ocean; a story of American apartness, by virtue of race and class; a story that ought help us understand one another better, no matter our background and place of residence.”

Robert Coles

“Alex Kotlowitz is a writer of rare compassion and strength. He has followed up his remarkable first book with a fascinating and painful rumination on the division between the white and black worlds in two adjoining midwestern citeis, and the equally separate truths that each world lives by.”

David Halberstam

“There are no villians, exactly, in Kotlowitz’s narrative, which is full of voices from both sides of the river and which at tiems takes on a Rashomon-like quality. Nor are there many heroes. And the victim himself…may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The trouble is, as Kotlowitz’s book shows, America is full of wrong places, depending on the color of one’s skin…Kotlowitz has produced a skillfully rendered, thoughtful study of a divided country in micocosm.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Disturbing, compulsively involving…a riveting portrait of a racially troubled America in the 1990s.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Alex Kotlowitz deals with racial matters in an even-handed way that should become common ground for even the most rigidly separated…He gives us characters and a story that help us reach across the divide and touch. His work has the capacity to become a powerful contribution to the future of the country.”

Henry Hampton

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