One Book One Northwestern selects Kotlowitz book for next year

Lauren Caruba

The class of 2016 will find the selection for next year’s One Book One Northwestern to be closely associated with the University, as its author is one of NU’s own lecturers.

The book, “Never a City So Real” by Alex Kotlowitz, who has taught at NU for the past 12 years, focuses on the personal stories of individuals from multiple Chicago neighborhoods.

“The book is really a collection of portraits of outsiders in the city,” Kotlowitz said. “Each of the people in this book in some ways are kind of an inspiration.”

Kotlowitz, a writer-in-residence at NU’s Center for the Writing Arts and a Medill lecturer, is also the author of the bestseller “There Are No Children Here,” which was adapted into an ABC movie starring Oprah Winfrey. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post.

Assistant to the President Eugene Lowe, who oversees the selections for the One Book One Northwestern program, said he hopes the Chicago focus of the book will give freshmen incentive to leave campus and explore the city.

“I have been interested over the years about how many students at Northwestern really don’t take advantage of the fact that Northwestern is really on the border of Chicago and in the midst of a … globally important metropolitan community,” Lowe said.

In addition, Lowe said reading the books will expose students to different parts of the city and give them a more comprehensive idea of its culture.

“A pretty significant expanse of Chicago doesn’t look anything like downtown Chicago,” Lowe said. “There are remarkable numbers of neighborhoods. It’s a wide-ranging opportunity to experience the cultural diversity of the city.”

Medill junior Corinne Chin, a One Book fellow, had Kotlowitz as a professor in one of her writing courses. She said the fact that Kotlowitz is a member of the NU community and already interacts with students on a regular basis sets his book apart from previous program selections.

“It’s great to have the author know the community and be engaged with it,” said Chin, who is a former Daily staffer.

Previous One Book selections include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot and “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder.

Traditionally, the authors of the selected books make a campus appearance to talk about their work and its relevance to the student body. The close proximity of the NU campus to the city of Chicago will make the accompanying events even more interesting for students, said Emily Gao, another One Book fellow.

“We can bring students to actually go and see and interact with the things he writes about in his book,” the Weinberg senior said. “For the Northwestern community to be engaged with what’s in the book in that way – it’s a real strength for it to be that real and that accessible on so many different levels.”

Kotlowitz said the possibility of bringing some of the book’s characters to campus would be an interesting way for students to connect to the book.

“I love the idea of revisiting some of these people with the students,” he said.

Although the program is aimed at incoming freshmen, all of whom receive a copy of the selected book in July before they come to NU, Chin said the program has recently been trying to reach out more to upperclassmen by handing out extra copies of the book at various events throughout the year.

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