Non fiction

Review: Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge

Today I would like to tell you about one of the most heart-breaking and interesting books I have recently read: Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge. I apologize in advance as, once again, I am reviewing one of the least cheerful non fiction books ever published…

Gary Younge is a British journalist who lived in the United States for several years with his children and who was shocked to realize at what point children’s and teenager’s gun deaths are common and widely ignored in that country. On average, 7 teenagers and children are killed every day and these deaths, accepted as inevitable, are almost never in the news. ‘Those shot on any given day in different places and very different circumstances lack the critical mass and tragic drama to draw the attention of the nation’s media in the way a mass shooting in a cinema or church might. Far from being considered newsworthy, these everyday fatalities are simply a banal fact of death.’ Another Day In America sheds light on this everyday tragedy. Gary Younge decided to pick a day, randomly, and to investigate the life and death of all the children and teenagers who were shot dead that day. On the 23rd of November 2013, ten children and teenagers were shot dead. The book therefore comprises of 10 chapters, each of them focusing on these children and teenagers – who they were, how/why they died, how their families dealt with their death, if bigger circumstances triggered their death…

In his book, Gary Younge restores life to these dead children, to a certain extent. By interviewing members of their family, teachers, friends and other people close to them, he gathered a lot of information about them. We learn to know these children and their death seems even more tragic and absurd. Various kinds of children and death scenarios happen to be presented in this book: Jaiden Dixon, aged 9, was shot dead by his former father-in-law before going to school. Tyler Dunn, aged 11, was accidentally shot dead by his best friend during a sleepover. Samuel Brightmon, sixteen, was shot dead on the street while he was taking a friend home after a board game night. Tyshon Anderson, from Chicago, got shot dead by a member of a rival gang at 18.

In each chapter the author also explores a wider socio-economic issue related to a certain death, and this was a very interesting aspect of this book. Among these issues, Gary Younge focuses for instance on the notion of ‘Black-On-Black’ crime and the relationship between Black parenting and family structures and gun deaths (or rather if there is, indeed, such a relationship), how children’s gun deaths are reported in the media and by which media, gang culture and its recent evolution, how some former industrial cities such as Newark have been totally devastated by automation, neo-liberal globalisation and failures from the political leadership and how this allowed crime rates to skyrocket in these cities… These passages are very well documented, full of statistics and explanations, and I found them especially compelling.

The main thing that I learnt and will remember from this book? The the National Rifle Association is the biggest and most powerful gun advocates in the United States, and this evil organization has the power to put a stop to any initiative taken by the government, states or even gun manufacturers in order to make guns safer and limit gun deaths. For instance, the NRA has always opposed child-access prevention laws – laws which, for instance, impose criminal liability when a minor gains access to negligently stored weapons – and because of NRA lobbying power, these laws will never be implemented in some states such as Michigan. This book gives some startling examples of the NRA’s huge influence on gun laws…

Finally, I would like to stress that a book with such a topic doesn’t come without its issues. First, I couldn’t help myself but feeling like a kind of peeping Tom while reading it. Reading, chapter after chapter, how each victim died, and being almost curious about these deaths, is not a pleasant experience. Because of the way the book is narrated, it’s easy to forget that we are reading a book about real victims. Second, Gari Younge did not manage to interview the close relatives or parents of all the victims. Both Kenneth Mills-Tucker’s circle and Pedro Cortez’s circle did not accepted to talk to him. Therefore, these two chapters considerably lack information about the victims and Gari Younge tried to make up for it by relying on the only source of information he had about these victims: social media. I found these descriptions and pseudo analyses of the victims’ social media accounts quite uninteresting, not to say disturbing.

To conclude, I would say that even if this book has some little problems and blunders, Gary Younge’s intent with this book was honorable and Another Day In America does succeed in showing the atrocity of an American phenomenon that is not so much talked about, while also being very informative.

Another Day In The Death of America  by Gary Younge. Published by Guardian Books and Faber & Faber, 2016.

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