About halfway through his book Another Day in the Death of America, author Gary Younge makes the observation that as a journalist you are “constantly gauging what more there is to say [on a given subject] and who would be listening if you said it.” It is an apt question for his project, which aims to recount the stories of every child killed by gunfire in the United States on a random date, Nov. 23, 2013. Every day, an average of seven children are shot and killed here, the equivalent of a mass shooting. And yet, “far from being newsworthy...they are white noise set sufficiently low to allow the country to go about its business undisturbed.”
Younge, a black British journalist who worked in the United States for over a decade, is a gifted storyteller. He treats each child (ranging in age from 7 to 19) and their families with empathy and respect. Their unique situations also open myriad other issues, from smart guns to modern gangs to journalists’ tendency in reporting the deaths of children to emphasize their innocence, as though if they were not blameless their deaths would somehow be more tolerable.
Younge is particularly inspired in observing what it is like to be a black parent today. Deaths of black children are so common, he notes, “that every black parent of a teenage child I spoke to had factored in the possibility that this might happen to their kid.” While other parents are taking their kids to camps or helping them get into college, “these parents (who love their offspring no less) are devoting their energies to keeping their kids alive.”
Some of Younge’s presentations on social issues leave chapters diffuse. And for those who resist any limitations on the Second Amendment his project might seem polemical. But Younge is actually quite careful not to reduce the lives of these children and their families to a political position. He lets their stories speak for themselves. And whoever has ears, let them hear.