Much like his earlier work of nonfiction, There Are No Children Here, Alex Kotlowitz writes about individuals in Chicago coping with crime, violence and poverty. An American Summer is divided into chapters, and each chapter is a date in the summer of 2012. On each of these dates, the reader learns of a crime committed in Chicago, the victim(s) and sometimes the perpetrators and others, such as family, friends and neighbors who are effected by the crime. There is Marcelo who has committed armed robbery but believes he can escape his crime ridden world through education, Eddie who murdered a rival gang member when he was twenty but at fifty wants to give back to his community, and Gerald who has spent twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
An American Summer is a difficult read emotionally. Kotlowitz does a great job of getting into the hearts and minds of people living on the south and west side of Chicago whose lives are filled with fear and anger. An American Summer illustrates why there is no easy answer for the violence our country is experiencing.