The tragic stories of 10 kids killed by gunfire.
In this heart-rending, beautifully crafted book, Guardian editor at large Younge (The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream, 2013, etc.) explores the least-known but most common form of American gun violence involving children and teenagers—not mass school shootings but single, isolated killings, an average of seven daily, in neighborhoods across the country. For 18 months, he investigated the lives of victims between the ages of 9 and 19 who were shot dead on an arbitrarily selected date (Nov. 23, 2013) in varying circumstances: while opening a door, from a passing car, while walking home at 1 a.m. from a McDonald’s, while playing with a gun with a friend. The victims are all poor, working-class males (seven black, two Hispanic, one white) who made poor decisions in “a brutalizing, unforgiving environment.” In Younge’s empathetic telling, they are seen as vulnerable children, some innocent, some not so, all loved by their families. The victims include Tyshon Anderson, 18, a Chicago gang member; Samuel Brightmon, 16, a trusting black kid caught in random gunfire in Dallas; Edwin Rajo, 16, an impulsive Honduran whose girlfriend did not realize there was a bullet in the gun’s chamber; and Tyler Dunn, 11, slain accidentally during rural Michigan’s hunting season. The author discusses such factors as the availability of guns, the challenges of parenting in poor neighborhoods, and the development of adolescent brains. “When it comes to protecting children around guns, parents are flawed and laws are clearly inadequate,” he writes. Younge says fear of gun violence in impoverished areas is such that one mother was happy her 14-year-old son was locked up—“it was safer for him to be incarcerated than to live in the neighborhood.”
Important, deeply affecting, and certain to alarm readers who care about the lives of children in a gun-ridden society.