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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The publication of Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here was a national event giving voice to the heartbreaking struggle of two boys growing up amid the violence of Chicago's public housing. The book's impact made clear that Alex Kotlowitz's voice is one of compassion and intelligence, a voice to be trusted on the subject of race in America.
With the incisive, passionate prose of someone who traverses the line between "insider" and "outsider" in American communities, Alex Kotlowitz transports his readers to the banks of the St. Joseph River, a tributary that "lazily winds its way north from Indiana through the hilly cropland of Southwestern Michigan," and that, at its mouth, partitions two towns: the mostly white and prosperous St. Joseph and the primarily black and poor Benton Harbor. In late spring 1991, the river separating these two communities also bore a haunting cargo, the body of Eric, a black youth, by turns both child and adult, perhaps drowned, possibly murdered. "For these two towns, Eric has come to mark the divide, a reference point. To those in St. Joseph, Eric's death is proof that race blinds their neighbors to the obvious," writes Kotlowitz. "To those in Benton Harbor, it is proof that because of race, even the obvious is never what it seems."
Beautifully written and painstakingly reported, The Other Side Of The River sensitively portrays the lives and hopes of the towns' citizens as they wrestle with this mystery and others — and reveals the attitudes and misperceptions that undermine race relations throughout America. Thispowerfulstory challenges us to think about our own assumptions about race, no matter which side of the river we live on. This gripping and ultimately profound book takes us to the eye of the storm, a river brimming over with grief and confusion, rage and fear, proving that Kotlowitz is one of this country's foremost writers on the ever-explosive issue of race.