Wednesday, March 4, 2020
In "An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago," journalist and author Alex Kotlowitz returns a generation later to the scene of this 1991 book, “There Are No Children Here” and to some of Chicago’s most turbulent neighborhoods to offer a spellbinding collection of intimate profiles of people and communities touched by gun violence. Known for his immersive, deeply textured reporting, Kotlowitz investigates the impact of this violence on the spirit of individuals and community.
For forty years, Alex Kotlowitz has been telling stories from the heart of America, deeply intimate tales of struggle and perseverance. He is the author of four books, including his most recent, “An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago.” His other books include 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 B. Bernstein Award and was adapted as a television movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey. It was selected by The New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year along with his second book, “The Other Side of the River” which also received The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction. His book on Chicago, “Never a City So Real,” was recently released in paperback.
While Alex’s home is print, he has also worked in film and radio. His 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. For the film, Alex received an Emmy, a Cinema Eye Award and an Independent Spirit Award.
A former staff writer at The Wall Street Journal, Alex’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and on This American Life. His stories, which one reviewer wrote “inform the heart”, have also appeared in 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. His play, An Unobstructed View, written with Amy Drozdowska, premiered in Chicago in June 2005.
In 2016, Alex worked with inmates at Illinois’ Stateville prison on essays about their cells. The stories which ran on The New Yorker’s website and on The New Yorker’s Radio Hour became the basis for the podcast Written Inside. NPR’s Lauren Ober, who picked it as one of the top ten podcasts of the year, wrote: “It’s an intimate look at life behind bars that will likely change the way you think about incarceration.”
Alex has been honored in all three mediums, including two Peabodys, two Columbia duPonts, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the George Polk Award. He’s also the recipient of eight honorary degrees, the John LaFarge Memorial Award for Interracial Justice given by New York’s Catholic Interracial Council and the 2019 Harold Washington Literary Award.
Alex regularly gives lectures and talks around the country. He’s been a writer-in-residence at the University of Chicago, a visiting professor for seven years at the University of Notre Dame, a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College and a Distinguished Visitor at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He’s on faculty at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism 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.
Mr. Kotlowitz's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies at CMC.
(Source: Alex Kotlowitz website)
Photo credit: Kathy Richland
Food for Thought: Podcast with Alex Kotlowitz
Due to the marketization reform, entry to the WTO and the “low human rights disadvantage,” China has become the second-largest economy. But contrary to what most had presumed and predicted, the market economy and rapid growth didn’t lead China to transform into an open society. Instead, argues Biao Teng, Grove Human Rights Scholar at Hunter College, the Chinese Communist Party has tightened its one-party rule and utilized its political-economic-technological power to establish an unprecedented high-tech totalitarian system, which has been the biggest threat to global human rights and democracy.
Biao Teng is an academic lawyer, currently Grove Human Rights Scholar at Hunter College, and Pozen Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. He had been a lecturer at the China University of Politic and Law (Beijing), a visiting scholar at Yale, Harvard, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, New York University, and the Institute for Advanced Study. Teng’s research focuses on criminal justice, human rights, social movements, and political transition in China. Teng defended cases involving freedom of expression, religious freedom, the death penalty, Tibetans and Uyghurs. He co-founded two human rights NGOs in Beijing – the Open Constitution Initiative, and China Against the Death Penalty, in 2003 and 2010, respectively. He is one of the earliest promoters of the Rights Defense Movement in China and the manifesto Charter 08, for which Dr. Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Teng has received various international human rights awards including the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic (2007).
Dr. Teng's Athenaeum lecture is co-sponsored by Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at CMC.
(Parents Dining Room)