The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America's Dilemmaby Alex Kotlowitz
In The Other Side of the River, Kotlowitz takes us to southern Michigan. Here, separated by the St. Joseph River, are two towns, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. Geographically close, they are worlds apart, a living metaphor for America's racial divisions: St. Joseph is a prosperous lakeshore community and ninety-five percent white, while Benton Harbor is/i>… See more details below
In The Other Side of the River, Kotlowitz takes us to southern Michigan. Here, separated by the St. Joseph River, are two towns, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. Geographically close, they are worlds apart, a living metaphor for America's racial divisions: St. Joseph is a prosperous lakeshore community and ninety-five percent white, while Benton Harbor is impoverished and ninety-two percent black. When the body of a black teenaged boy from Benton Harbor is found in the river, unhealed wounds and suspicions between the two towns' populations surface as well. The investigation into the young man's death becomes, inevitably, a screen on which each town projects their resentments and fears.
The Other Side of the River sensitively portrays the lives and hopes of the towns' citizens as they wrestle with this mystery--and reveals the attitudes and misperceptions that undermine race relations throughout America. In this gripping and ultimately profound book, Alex Kotlowitz proves why he is one of this country's foremost writers on the ever explosive issue of race.
Faye Powell, Portland State Univ. Lib., Ore.
Catherine Noonan, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
"A riveting portrait of a racially troubled America in the 1990's"Publishers Weekly (starred)
"A vivid American microcosm, a telling tableau of the way we are."The New York Times
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
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I rememeber that year, that club, that day I found out that my friend Eric was found. A group of us attended that club on the weekends. We considered it a break, a place where we could go and just have some good, clean fun. I grew up in Benton Harbor, and unfortunately at that time, there wasn't alot of safe places we could hang out in Benton Harbor. I was in school the day we were told that Eric was dead. My heart sunk. He was one of the sweetest people I knew. Suicide? That would be so hard to believe. Murder? I don't know...but what I do know is that even today, twelve years later...I find myself still thinking about Eric. And I am glad that even though this was a tragedy...Eric is not forgotten and there are people out there who still care enough to want to know what really happened that night....so that his family and friends will be at peace. Thank you for caring, Alex.
Kotlowitz has done a splendid job in unearthing and exposing the racial tensions between the towns of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. As a former resident of Benton Harbor and its surrounding areas for about ten years, I can personally attest to some of the stereotypes and experiences of blacks mentioned in this book. Yet, the adverse treatment of blacks is not only limited to St. Joe, but can also be seen in the surrounding towns as far south as Berrien Springs. I have met some of the characters mentioned in this book on occasion and can say that the authors portrayal of them is not far off. Not only does Kotlowitz search for the truth about Eric McGinnis, he also attempts to provide and answer as to why there is a conflict between the two towns by presenting some of its history. Perhaps this history holds the answer for the mending of these two communities. Well done.
I have to read this in 8th. Teachers fav...
From the highly known author of "There Are No Children Here", Alex Kotlowitz transports his audience to Southern Michigan. Where the St. Joe River not only divides two cities geographically but also represents the racial division of skin color. The towns of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor didn't possess an ounce of care towards one another. That was evident. But they did not know that they're already strained relationship would reach a breaking point during the spring of 1991. A body of a young African boy was found floating down the river only to be found by local coast guard. Once this information had been released to Benton Harbor and St. Joseph that Eric McGinnis had been found dead floating along the river, thoughts and feelings would never be repaired. In "The Other Side Of The River", Kotlowitz portrays the racial inequality seen from coast to coast, city to city. As the cause of the boy's death is questioned, people from both sides of the river begin to form their own opinions of what happened that late spring night. Was it homicide? Did Eric fall into the river by mistake? Or does his death possess a secret that could set these cities ablaze? Through interviews, past records, and even personal experiences Kotlowitz delves past the mystery surrounding the boy's death and into the memories of the citizens of these two towns. Hoping to find the ultimate answer to his long awaited question he exposes the true reasoning of such a profound hatred amongst two towns. These towns bound by racial inequality have set the path for never ending tension. This tension between the blacks and whites has not ceased since the equality and integration era of 1960's. Prejudice has existed before Eric McGinnis' death and has remained after. And until the blacks of Benton Harbor and whites of St. Joseph come to peace, the river will remain a barrier to peace and equality.
In this book, Kotlowitz shows the world that even into the 1990s there was still racial tensions in cities. I knew that whites disliked African Americans even into the 1990s but I had no clue that in some cities racial tensions were as bad as they were in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. This book opens people's eyes today that may not have known what racism between races was like then. Today racism still exists but is nothing like it was then. Kotlowitz also goes into detail about other incidents of alleged racism. The book shows that not only did whites discriminate against blacks but also vice versa, when blacks discriminated against whites. Kotlowitz gives both sides of this tragedy; he gets opinions from people in both Benton Harbor and in St. Joseph. He blocks out his own opinions to write this book, because people need to know that tragedies like the death of Eric really happen and it can happen anywhere. This book opens people eyes, mind to the idea that racism is still alive, and is not going to go away soon. At first Kotlowitz came to Benton Harbor and St. Joseph to document the incident for the magazine but eventually stayed for seven years to try to help the police solve this case, but also took it a step further to write this book not only documenting the case but to show America about racism and it harmful effects. Before reading this book, I thought that this intense racism, died out in the late 1980s, but after reading this book it opened my eyes that racism is still alive and it made me question my own opinions. I recommend this book to everyone because everyone needs to know of the tensions of racism and its horrible effects.