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An American Summer

Love and Death in Chicago
Narrated by: Alex Kotlowitz
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (97 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling author of There Are No Children Here, a richly textured, heartrending portrait of love and death in Chicago's most turbulent neighborhoods.

The numbers are staggering: Over the past 20 years in Chicago, 14,033 people have been killed and another roughly 60,000 wounded by gunfire. What does that do to the spirit of individuals and community? 

Drawing on his decades of experience, Alex Kotlowitz set out to chronicle one summer in the city, writing about individuals who have emerged from the violence and whose stories capture the capacity - and the breaking point - of the human heart and soul. The result is a spellbinding collection of deeply intimate profiles that upend what we think we know about gun violence in America. 

Among others, we meet a man who as a teenager killed a rival gang member and 20 years later is still trying to come to terms with what he's done; a devoted school social worker struggling with her favorite student, who refuses to give evidence in the shooting death of his best friend; the witness to a wrongful police shooting who can't shake what he has seen; and an aging former gang leader who builds a place of refuge for himself and his friends.

Applying the close-up, empathic reporting that made There Are No Children Here a modern classic, Kotlowitz offers a piercingly honest portrait of a city in turmoil. These sketches of those left standing will get into your bones. This one summer will stay with you.

©2019 Alex Kotlowitz (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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, 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, best-selling author of The Other Wes Moore and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation)

"A masterpiece of real-life storytelling. With each unforgettable story, Kotlowitz draws us into the lives of people living and working in some of Chicago’s most abandoned communities. The stories of suffering and revenge unsettle and enrage; those of grace and forgiveness warm and inspire. Together, they dispel with cheap explanations, offering deeper sense to acts thought senseless and revealing people’s depth and humanity lost in the headlines." (Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted)

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A must read!

I am a retired teacher from the Chicago public schools. I worked in the neighborhoods that this author talks about and even knew one of the boys that have was talked about in the book. I thought I had an understanding of the young people that I was working with until I read this book. It touched me deeply and I believe every person who works with young people who live in poverty and violence should be required to read it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I can’t stop listening

I am so intrigued by these true stories . Alex tells them with empathy and integrity.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Grew up in Chicago

I love this book‼️ What an excellent job of capturing and reporting the reality of what people experience in some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.

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From a Chicagoan

My heart is broken by the stories in this incredible book. It will haunt me.

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Excellent in all ways - A must read

I wasn’t sure if I would connect with the topic but very quickly found that I couldn’t stop listing. It is engaging, thoughtful and well written. What I appreciated most about this book was the way the author tells the stories of individuals and communities in their full depth and humanity — and complexity. I would put this on a “must read” list. The author does a great job narrating as well.

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Important Piece of Literature that Everyone Needs

Far too common as people disconnected to the stories we hear on the news, it is easy to cast quick judgements on situations we can't relate to and have never experienced. Kotlowitz does an amazing job at humanizing a group of people who are often too quickly stereotyped. He doesn't make excuses for their actions, but he brilliantly explains the complexity of emotions and influences that many are facing, far too often as a child. It's so easy to say what superficial actions need to be taken to "fix" the problem, but this book gives light to necessary rudimentary changes that must take place first.

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  • 04-13-19

Terrific book

Alex Kotlowitz might be our most important writer in Chicago issues. Highly recommended. (he's also a very good reader)

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Exceptional....

As a parent who lost her only child to gun violence this book captured so much truth in feeling. Definitely a must read