The Other Side Of The River: Twin Cities, Twin Races By Alex Kotlowitz

1928 words - 8 pages

A book usually follows a set of standards and guidelines that make it a great read; the obvious details include an introduction to the settings and characters, rising action, the climax, the dénouement, and the conclusion. Some authors however can still create an excellent story while skipping one or more of these parts; and these legacies still live on. However, it is a rare find when an author starts with the climax on the very first page, and makes the dénouement last until the final page, and still has a great book. Alex Kotlowitz accomplished this in The Other Side of the River by bringing in other elements and stories involving poverty, race, safety, and more; literally ...view middle of the document...

Most ironically, these two towns are collectively referred to as the "Twin Cities" in the story, and in real life too.Eric F. McGinnis, an African American inhabitant of Benton Harbor and only 16 years old, "died" on May 17, 1991. There were many speculations regarding his death, apart from the hundreds of baseless rumors circulating throughout the Twin Cities. The two major theories were as follows. The residents of Benton Harbor held the belief that Eric McGinnis was murdered by one of the many white inhabitants of St. Joseph, supposedly because he was dating a white girl from that city, something highly looked down upon by the whites. The African American story went on to say that the county's only detective, Jim Reeves, and the County Prosecutor, Dennis Wiley, were hiding facts, and harboring white criminals. To them Eric McGinnis was a hero, and served as an outlet for years of anger and prejudice, as well as a representation of all the crimes that the white race had perpetrated against the African American "family."The White side of the story showed much less anger towards the blacks they were not necessarily any less racially prejudiced in their attitude. This can be attributed to the fact that they did not need words to express their feelings to the Blacks, their actions spoke both loud and clear enough. The White population referred to Eric McGinnis' drowning as a freak occurrence on the wet and muddy slopes of the St. Joseph River, and not in any way a violent crime. The investigators approached this from the White point of view, doing only a very basic autopsy, and not bothering to verify their work with experts in that field. The government labeled McGinnis' death as accidental on his death certificate.This nonfiction novel came about as the result of the introduction of yet another character into this investigation: Alex Kotlowitz. He took it upon himself to tell the story of the unlucky child, and to attempt to discover the truth for the satisfaction of Eric's parents, himself, and the Twin Cities. What originally appeared to be a relatively simple investigation soon turned into a six-year obsession for Kotlowitz, who swore to achieve justice. He questioned everyone in Benton Harbor, and all the Whites that McGinnis ever met, but he never came to a conclusive answer. Evidences clashed, scandals were abounding, and the truth was to be never recovered.Some of the interesting discoveries that Kotlowitz makes in his search for the truth is that the Twin Cities do have much in common, including the pressing issues of safety, police, socio-economic inequality, and most importantly, race. When Kotlowitz begins his search for the true story behind the death of Eric McGinnis, he questions many people from both cities, to discover that both Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are saddened by the death of a 16-year-old black, but not for the same reasons. The residents of Benton Harbor are saddened by this death, because he was one of their numbers,...

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