In his 2016 collection of essays, Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge takes on the high death rates of young people in America. British-born, Younge married an American woman and moved here in the early 2000s. In his words, he has “only ever been a parent in the United States,” and, therefore, has become acutely aware of, and troubled by, the statistics surrounding the gun-related fates met by an average of seven American children per day.
However, his personal feelings aside, he makes it clear in his introduction that this book is not intended as commentary on gun control, race or politics. Rather, he offers the reader a somber snapshot comprised of ten deaths that occurred over a single twenty-four hour period: November 23rd, 2013.
“It was just another day in America. And as befits an unremarkable Satuday in America, ten children and teens were killed by gunfire.” Younge begins by establishing a foundation of grim statistics and vital reminders of some of the recent shootings he sees as particularly “galvanizing” events. The reader is then introduced to the first and youngest of these ten kids, and arguably the most heart-wrenching story in the book.
Jaiden Dixon was only nine when he was killed in Grove City, Ohio. A well-loved student, friend and son, he was shot in his own home and died shortly after getting to the hospital. A majority of the conversations in this essay are held between Younge and Jaiden’s mother, and they are especially hard to confront. The event itself is painfully wrought by the author, but it is the response from those who knew him best that plunges Jaiden’s story into devastating depths.
Indeed, the impact of these boys’ deaths on their surroundings is Younge’s primary focus. While close friends, immediate family and church members mourned their loss and opened up to the author about their grief, these were not deaths that worked their way into the public eye. The boys in this book were not treated as anything more than a statistic by the country as a whole. In the scope of American life, the too-soon deaths that occurred on November 23rd, 2013, simply aligned with the national trend. As Younge says: “Each individual death is experienced as a family tragedy that ripples through a community, but the sum total barely earns a national shrug.”
Because of his journalistic tendencies, Younge’s writing is straightforward, honest and pulls no punches. However, he brings with him the compassion and empathy of a parent documenting deaths that could very well have hit much closer to home. This tribute, ten stories of death drastically under-reported, is one that will leave you breathless from either anger or sadness, or more likely, from both. In an especially effective attempt to reach through the page to the reader, his afterword includes this final, haunting plea:
“I want to bay toward the heavens, because while kids like those featured in this book keep dying, the political class refuses to do not only everything in its power but anything at all to minimize the risks for the kids who will be shot dead today or tomorrow.”
Read Gary Younge’s latest essay collection:Request Another Day in the Death of America
Tess Wilson works in Civic Information Services at Main, and occasionally assists Teen Mentors during programming at the Labs. She is a collector of anything from big dictionaries to small rocks, and her latest acquisition was an MFA in Creative Writing of Poetry from Chatham University.