Keynote: Alex Kotlowitz

Seeking Justice Through Storytelling

ALEX KOTLOWITZ—For over forty years, bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz has told stories of perseverance and dignity in the face of poverty, racism, and violence. A common thread is the acutely empathetic lens he brings to on-the-ground reporting, starting with his breakout book, There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America through to his latest An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago. Lauded as “one of our great American journalists” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kotlowitz has been recognized for his perceptive portrayals of poverty, race, and immigration, spanning many forms of media: print and radio journalism, documentary film, and books. A national bestseller, There Are No Children Here garnered national recognition for its compassionate, unflinching portrait of two young boys growing up in one of Chicago’s most notorious housing projects. A generation later Kotlowitz returned to some of Chicago’s most turbulent neighborhoods in An American Summer, a spellbinding collection of profoundly intimate profiles of people and communities affected by gun violence that Wes Moore called “revelatory and brilliant.” The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America’s Dilemma, centers on the mysterious death of a Black teenager in a primarily white town in Michigan, and the unhealed wounds and suspicions between the two communities. Kotlowitz partnered with Hoop Dreams director/producer Steve James on the Emmy Award-winning documentary The Interrupters, an examination of the stubborn persistence of urban violence. Hailed by A.O. Scott of The New York Times as a “must-see,” The Interrupters won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. Kotlowitz is a regular contributor to This American Life, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. He teaches journalism at Northwestern University.   

An American Summer

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