Who says there’s no such thing as a free meal? Dinner/discussions are among the free events presented in January by Northwestern University’s One Book One Northwestern initiative.

There’ll also be a panel featuring three well-known authors and a screening of an award-winning film written and produced by 2012-13 One Book One Northwestern author Alex Kotlowitz.

Kotlowitz’s book, Never a City so Real, provides an introduction to the Chicago — but less as a tour of the place and more a chronicle of its soul. Through a collection of vignettes about Chicago’s diverse people and neighborhoods, the book gives readers a much richer understanding of the city.

Details of the free and public events follow. Because table space is limited, advance online reservations for the Jan. 10 and Jan. 14 light dinner/discussions are required..

Jan. 10, “A Chicago Storybook,” dinner/discussion with artist Robert Guinan, 5:30 to 7 p.m., Dittmar Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Northwestern University Evanston campus.

Guinan is among the Chicagoans profiled in Kotlowitz’s “Never a City So Real,” this year’s One Book selection. An artist who has gained greater recognition in Europe than at home and the subject of two documentary films, Guinan will talk about the city that has inspired his work for more than five decades. Reservations required.

Jan. 14, “From Al Capone to the Latin Kings: Violent Crime in Chicago,” a dinner/discussion, 5:30 to 7 p.m., Dittmar Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston.

Northwestern School of Law faculty member Leigh Bienen will moderate a discussion about Chicago crime as it relates to two chapters of “Never a City So Real.” Bienen, author of “Crimes of the Century,” is the director of the online Chicago Historical Homicide Project that analyzes decades of Chicago crime data. Reservations required.

Jan. 24, “Writers’ Panel on Language and Identity,” 7 p.m., McCormick Tribune Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, Evanston.

Three award-winning authors with ties to Chicago –Ana Castillo, Aleksandar  Hemon and Bich Minh Nguyen — will discuss issues of language and identity in their own work and in literature generally. Writer, Northwestern Center for the Writing Arts director and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Professor Reginald Gibbons will moderate the discussion.

Jan. 29, Screening of “The Interrupters,” followed by a talk with author-turned-screenwriter Alex Kotlowitz and Eddie Bocanegra, one of the film’s violence intervention workers starring in the film, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Room 107 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road, Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

Kotlowitz co-produced this award-winning film about three members of Ceasefire, a Chicago group that works on the street level to prevent violence. Bocanegra, a former Ceasefire anti-violence worker, will talk about the group’s often heroic efforts to prevent violence before it erupts.

Kotlowitz teaches journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Communication. The One Book One Northwestern is a community reading program sponsored by the Office of the President that engages the campus in conversations around the One Book selection for an entire academic year.

For a listing of upcoming One Book One Northwestern events, visit the One Book website or call (847) 467-2294.

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