Portraits of Violence in Chicago


Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here, returns with a new book called An American Summer that is an extremely powerful portrait of the impact of violence in Chicago. It’s hard to really review a book that is a collection of people’s stories, but I have one up over at City Journal. An American Summer is a very moving and disturbing work I highly recommend. Here is an excerpt from my review:

"The stories Kotlowitz tells are harrowing. Without passing judgment or attempting grand explanations, he describes how violence traumatizes people and damages neighborhoods. Far from being hardened and desensitized by violence, the individuals we meet are permanently scarred. Mothers of dead children struggle to heal. Lisa Daniels knew that her troubled 25-year-old son, Darren, killed in a drug deal, was headed for a bad end; she worried about him constantly. A devout Christian who believes that her son could easily have been the perpetrator instead of the victim, she forgives his killer and even advocates leniency for him in court. But she retains a deep sense of shame, feeling that she failed her son.

Others fare worse. “One young mother I met told me she cuts herself,” Kotlowitz writes. “One mother I know held her seven-year-old daughter as she died in her arms, and in her closet she keeps her daughter’s bloodied clothes in a plastic bag, a kind of talisman. Another had her son’s EKG record, his last heartbeats, tattooed on her forearm. Still another propped against her fireplace a life-sized cardboard likeness of her son.”

Click through to read the whole thing.

This piece originally appeared on Urbanophile.

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and an economic development columnist for Governing magazine. He focuses on ways to help America’s cities thrive in an ever more complex, competitive, globalized, and diverse twenty-first century. During Renn’s 15-year career in management and technology consulting, he was a partner at Accenture and held several technology strategy roles and directed multimillion-dollar global technology implementations. He has contributed to The Guardian, Forbes.com, and numerous other publications. Renn holds a B.S. from Indiana University, where he coauthored an early social-networking platform in 1991.