An American Summer is an archive of the war—like finding a shocking but beautiful bundle of letters and photographs in the attic. Except that these dispatches reflect the daily violence that many Americans are experiencing, right now, in too many of our cities. Alex Kotlowitz dispenses with wooden categories of criminal and victim. With his uncommon warmth and sensitivity, he makes us understand that violence doesn’t happen in a moment; it’s a state of affairs.” — Sarah Koenig, creator and host of Serial

“This book is revelatory and brilliant. There Are No Children Here changed me when I read it years ago. An American Summer has done it again.” — Wes Moore, author of the bestseller The Other Wes Moore

“What remains after the deaths, the funerals, the court hearings, the jail sentences, the mourning? This is the question at the heart of Alex Kotlowitz's compassionate and unflinching new book, and what emerges speaks to a stubborn, immovable, singular drive towards hope and forgiveness. Kotlowitz reminds us again and again that what happens in Chicago reflects the best and worst of our nation. This spectacular book is an urgent call to bear witness, not to the dying that violence breeds, but to the love that stands tall amidst the debris.” — Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze

Press for An American Summer


Selected by the New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important books of the twentieth century
Helen Bernstein Award, Carl Sandburg Award, Christopher Award
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

“A triumph of empathy.” — Los Angeles Times

“Alex Kotlowitz joins the ranks of the important few writers on the subject of urban poverty.” — Chicago Tribune

“An extraordinary glimpse into the lives of those struggling for survival and dignity in inner-city America.” — Chicago Sun-Times

“Alex Kotlowitz’s story informs the heart. His meticulous portrait of the two boys in a Chicago housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape.” — New York Times

“Amid the darkness and ever-present despair, Kotlowitz beautifully captures the moments of brightness and hope. Easily could become the 1990s equivalent of Michael Harrington’s The Other America.” — San Francisco Chronicle


Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction
Great Lakes Booksellers Award
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

“Kotlowitz writes with absolutely perfect pitch … his masterly investigation ultimately reveals the tragedy of racial stereotypes.” — Christian Science Monitor

“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

“A densely realistic, humane portrait.” — The New Yorker

“A patient and sensitive portrait of the social life of race in America…the mystery is engrossing.” — The Nation

 A riveting portrait of a racially troubled America” — Publishers Weekly (starred)


Coming out in paperback, June 2019

“…  a fine successor to Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make as a song to our rough-and-tumble, broken-nosed city…” — Chicago Sun-Times

“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.” — Booklist

“Kotlowitz uses his immense skill for capturing stories of those who are often overlooked to paint a compelling portrait of one of America’s iconic capitals.” — O Magazine