• An American Summer

  • Love and Death in Chicago
  • By: Alex Kotlowitz
  • Narrated by: Alex Kotlowitz
  • Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (192 ratings)

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An American Summer  By  cover art

An American Summer

By: Alex Kotlowitz
Narrated by: Alex Kotlowitz
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Publisher's Summary

A 2020 J. Anthony Lukas Prize winner

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)

“Unforgettable...Like Kotlowitz’s now classic There Are No Children Here, An American Summer probes the human damage that stems from exposure to violence...a powerful indictment of a city and a nation that have failed to protect their most vulnerable residents, or to register their pain.” (Eric Klinenberg, The New York Times Book Review

"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)

What listeners say about An American Summer

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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.

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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

5 people found this helpful

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A must read

If you want to understand the anger and rage of people living in the toughest Chicago neighborhoods this book is a must. These people face conditions that as a privileged white person I have never experienced or even considered.

4 people found this 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.

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  • RB
  • 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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Outstanding!

Kotlowitz has done it again. This book will change your thinking. Don’t pass up the opportunity to listen to it.

1 person found this helpful

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Violence, death and the aftermath

"One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic." - Joseph Stalin. This book is the author's attempt to personalize the violence and death resulting from thousands of shootings in Chicago. Ultimately, while many of the stories held my interest, listing to this volume was depressing. Some victims described were small children or innocent bystanders, although many were involved in what they would call Thug Life. Three quarters of all killings and 90% of all shootings go unsolved. When a witness steps up to testify, their life and the lives of their family members are in danger. There is plenty of injustice to go around, from unpunished police shootings to a young mentally challenged man who served 30 years of a life sentence before an eyewitness recanted or changed her story. Also, the author is not a great narrator and the producer added strange music and sound effects.

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Important book that needs to be read!

I have always found that books like this make me so very grateful for what I have. It is heart wrenching, but if more people read books like these I truly believe that a difference could be made for these children, mothers, elderly people and all of the other people that are stuck living in this kind of environment. This writer is so good and so compassionate. Also, bonus for me is that his voice sounds just like Kevin Costner.

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Yet Another Great Book by Alex Koltowitz

I have been waiting a long time for another Alex Koltowitz book, having listened to his other two more times than I can count, and “An American Summer” does not disappoint . His ability transport you into the story is incredible - I promise, you won’t be able to stop listening once you start.

As a side note, I would highly recommend that you listen to “There Are No Children Here” before this book. There are many people that are discussed in both books, and I feel that having the background from “There Are No Children Here” makes this book so much richer.

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Sad, but much needed stories.

Kotlowitz takes you beyond the sensational media headlines into the lives of those living in poverty stricken, high violence areas. His book helps you see the need for interventions that are more than policing if we are truly going to help those who attempt to survive these neighborhoods. A must read for any one in the social work field.