Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance's Reviews > An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago

An American Summer by Alex Kotlowitz
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it was amazing
bookshelves: chicago, death, justice, post-apocalypse, poverty, problems-ideas, summer, war, nonfiction

"The numbers are staggering. In Chicago, in the twenty years between 1990 and 2010, 14,033 people were killed, another roughly 60,000 by gunfire."

(In the Bible, a word "Selah" is used, meaning stop and reflect on this. I will use the word "Selah" now.)


"Let me put this in some perspective, if perspective is possible; it's considerably more than the number of American soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Combined."


Violence, it's called. Gang shootings.

In truth, it's war. And on and on it goes.

"...these are young men and women who are burdened by fractured families, by lack of money, by a closing window of opportunity, by a sense they don't belong, by a feeling of low self-worth. And so when they feel disrespected or violated, they explode, often out of proportion to the moment, because so much other hurt has built up and then the dam bursts. They become flooded with anger."


"The numbers don't begin to capture the havoc wreaked on the soul of individuals and on neighborhoods, nor do they grapple with the discomforting fact that the vast majority of the shootings are of African-Americans and Hispanics by African-Americans and Hispanics. What to make of all this? "


This book is a book of stories of one summer in Chicago. The author, Alex Kotlowitz, interviews victims of violence, perpetrators of violence, those living in the shadow of violence, those living each day with the threat of violence. It's not an easy read. I did read it, and I'm thinking about it still, and I feel sad about it, and I want to take action, and I feel almost helpless, almost hopeless.

Then I think about the story the author tells about Creina Hancock. She and her husband, Neil, lived among the Zulus in post-apartheid South Africa, working to create sustainable agriculture, to mute some of the harm of apartheid. Neil was murdered by Zulus in a tribal dispute, but Creina continued on, doing the work. "The only thing you can do is love, because it is the only thing that leaves light inside you, instead of the total, obliterating darkness," the author quotes Creina as saying. That, I think, is all we can do in this war going on in our own country. All we can do is love.
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Reading Progress

November 27, 2019 – Started Reading
November 27, 2019 – Shelved
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: chicago
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: death
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: justice
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: post-apocalypse
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: poverty
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: problems-ideas
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: summer
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: war
November 28, 2019 – Shelved as: nonfiction
November 28, 2019 – Finished Reading

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