'Another Day in the Death of America' Chronicles Children's Lives Lost To Gun Violence
The mass shooting that killed more than two dozen people at a church in rural Texas over the weekend was the latest in a string of such shootings in this country. From Texas to Las Vegas to Charleston and Newtown, mass shootings shock and outrage Americans.
But journalist Gary Younge says there is another trend that should be just as disturbing - the deaths of children from gun violence every day.
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Younge is black, British, and of Barbadian descent, and his wife is African-American. He covered the United States for more than a decade for the Guardian newspaper, most recently based in Chicago.
Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives is Younge's attempt to understand the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. He says that even after living here for so long, he has never been able to adequately explain the ubiquity of gun violence in this country to the outside world. "'Why would [America] not do something about this?' That's the question that comes up again and again," he says.
But it was having two African-American children that crystallized the need for him to tell the stories he does in the book. Younge says that even though he's not American, having two kids in America was enough to alert him to the issue. "Being black just raised the odds," he notes. "One of the things that struck me writing this book was that every single black parent that I spoke to thought this could happen to their child."
Younge says that, on average, seven children are killed by gun violence every day in America. In the book, Younge picks a single day, and delves into the stories of every child who was shot that day. "I was keen on picking a day and allowing the day to choose the cases, and therefore not gaming it," he says. "If I'd have picked a different day, I'd have a different book."
The stories also come in the order in which the children were shot, sometimes to the expense of the emotional pace of the reader. Younge says doing it this way was deliberate. "To me, the power in the conceit is that if this book takes you a week to finish, then pretty much 50 kids will be dead in that week."
Younge pauses for a moment, then continues. "We learned in journalism school that dog-bites-man isn't a story, but man-bites-dog is. And there's a way in which these are dog-bites-man stories. But sooner or later you'll have to ask yourself who owns these dogs? And why do the same people keep being bitten?"
Younge and his family are back in Britain now. He is still passionate about trying to understand why guns have such a hold on America, but he is equally passionate about what this book isn't.
"This is not a book about gun control. It's just a book that is made possible by the lack of gun control. So I'm not going to argue with you about scripture, which is essentially what the Second Amendment is. You just have to talk to me about how we keep these kids alive, and how I keep my kids alive, in a country in where seven children are shot dead every single day."