Dan Thorson's Reviews > The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America's Dilemma

The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz
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's review
Aug 03, 2011

it was amazing
Read in August, 2011

Journalist Alex Kotlowitz comes to Benton Harbor, Michigan with the intention of examining one of America’s poorest and most violent communities. This changes, however, when Kotlowitz discovers that 16 year-old Eric McGinnis, a black boy from the impoverished town, was found floating in the river dissecting Benton Harbor and its predominately white and affluent neighbor, St. Joseph. Kotlowitz becomes obsessed with the death, one that was hastily ruled an accident. The author spends four years traveling between the two starkly different communities in an attempt to discover the truth behind Eric’s death. Kotlowitz learns that the notion of truth vastly differs as he crosses the bridge connecting each town. Benton Harbor residents know Eric was murdered, likely by a white person from St. Joseph. St. Joseph residents, however, would like to let the tragic event live in the past. Despite their differences, residents of both towns fear the potential for race riots and chaos if the truth about Eric’s death is ever discovered. This investigative story offers a bleak account of race relations and racial inequality in the United States. It also presents a gritty report of the senseless violence prevalent throughout impoverished communities. Despite its stark tone, this book reads quickly as its subject compels its reader to learn more about the mysterious and tragic death.
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