There Are No Children Here, his 1991 report on two years in the life of a pair of preteen brothers in the Henry Horner Homes, established Alex Kotlowitz (then a writer for the Wall Street Journal) as an impassioned chronicler of the complexities of race and urban poverty. Kotlowitz turned his attention to Michigan for his next book, The Other Side of the River, but his latest project put the author back on the streets of his adopted hometown. Never a City So Real, due in July from Crown, is a collection of intimate portraits of Chicagoans he's crossed paths with over the years--like Milton Reid, who's made a career of painting murals on the walls of apartments in the Robert Taylor Homes. (Reid's also the subject of an audio documentary Kotlowitz produced in 2002 for Chicago Public Radio.) "I think of the city as a city of real insiders--there's this kind of tribalism, almost," says Kotlowitz. "But it's also a city of outsiders, both in the literal and the metaphoric sense. Because the city is democratic, with a small d, I think it's a place where outsiders can thrive." Kotlowitz, a writer in residence this winter at Northwestern University, will read from Never a City So Real at 5:30 PM on Monday, January 19, in room 108 of Harris Hall, at 1881 Sheridan on NU's Evanston campus. At the same venue on February 10, he'll discuss his radio work. Both events are free; call 847-467-4099.