Alex Kotlowitz

Alex Kotlowitz is an Illinois-based nonfiction writer and journalist.

Selected Works:

There Are No Children Here: The Story Of Two Boys Growing Up In The Other AmericaThe Other Side of the River: A Story of Two TownsNever a City So Real


Helen B. Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Carl Sandburg Award, and a Christopher Award (There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America). New York Public Library selected There Are No Children Here as one of the 150 most important books of the century.

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Which one or two American books or plays would you yourself recommend to the foreign leaders?

Tony Lukas's Common Ground. It speaks to the most profound divisions in this country, having everything to do with class, race and culture. Also John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which speaks to the best and worst of this country.

Who in your childhood—for example, parent or teacher—encouraged you to read books, and which one or two books do you remember most fondly?

Our living room walls were covered with books, hundreds of them, from floor to ceiling. It was a given that if my brother or I wanted to understand ourselves or the world, it was all along those walls.

Old Yeller is the first book to make me cry (which as a young boy I tried to keep from everyone else). Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, in an odd sort of way, made my adolescence feel less dark. It gave me perspective.

Which books by writers of the other G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom) have been most important to you as a writer?

Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Günter Grass's The Tin Drum. Just about anything by George Orwell, especially his nonfiction.

What is the Power of the Word Exhibit?

Power of the Word: Leaders, Readers and Writers is the first online exhibition of The American Writers Museum. As world leaders gather in the U.S. this spring, The American Writers Museum Foundation is inviting American writers and readers to explore the power of the word and join in a discussion of how American books can help readers in other parts of the world better understand our culture.

Leaders Gallery

An exploration into what some of the world’s most powerful leaders like to read, and how reading has influenced them.

Writers Gallery

American writers comment on their early experiences with reading and name the books they think world leaders should read in order to better understand American culture.

Readers Gallery

An interactive, open forum where readers are invited to join the discussion by answering the question: Which American works of literature do you think leaders from other nations should read in order to gain a better understanding of America?

We would like to thank our exhibit sponsors for their generous support:


What is The American Writers Museum?

The mission of The American Writers Museum Foundation is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives. Learn more at