Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Than a River Runs through Two Racially Divided Towns Reaching for Reconciliation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Than a River Runs through Two Racially Divided Towns Reaching for Reconciliation

Article excerpt

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER

By Alex Kotlowitz

Nan A. Talese, Doubleday 317pp., $24.95 The death of Eric McGinnis, a black teen living in Benton Harbor, Mich., is the focus of Alex Kotlowitz's careful and riveting book, "The Other Side of the River." In trying to determine if Eric was murdered, or accidentally drowned, Kotlowitz spent nearly six years shuttling back and forth between the impoverished, almost all black town of Benton Harbor, and its neighbor across the St. Joseph River, the white, prosperous town of St. Joseph, Mich. Between the towns, two short bridges had become feeble links. As Kotlowitz discovered, the bridges were more of a no man's land between warring blacks and whites, separated for decades by profound distrust and economic disparity. Sadly, the underlying story here is the profound American problem of racial intolerance. Kotlowitz writes, "I've come to realize that most of us would like to do right, but as we said of the South's politicians during Jim Crow, race diminishes us. It incites us to act as we wouldn't in other arenas; clumsily, cowardly and sometimes cruelly." When Eric, a fun-loving, engaging youth, is pulled from the river (on the St. Joseph side) after disappearing for a few days, an investigation is launched under the direction of Lt. Jim Reeves of the St. Joseph police. No deadly marks or injuries are on the body, But Benton Harbor concludes immediately the cause is murder at the hands of a white person, not drowning. St. Joseph worries less about the cause of Eric's death as fear increases, and old prejudices are confirmed: another dead black from a city that by 1994 has the highest murder rate in the nation. Kotlowitz writes with absolutely perfect pitch, his lean prose crossing the threads of many stories as he moves between context and detail. His previous book, "There Are No Children Here," about two black boys living in the projects in Chicago, won many awards. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.