‘Another Day in the Death of America’ by Gary Younge examines the stories of the ten children and teenagers who are known to have died on a single day in the United States as a result of gun violence. Younge picked Saturday 23rd November 2013 at random which happened to be the day after the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and less than a year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut. A tragic portrait of gun culture in contemporary America emerges from the harrowing stories behind each fatal shooting.
The circumstances of the ten cases vary enormously from a murder-suicide in Ohio to an accidental shooting in a rural community in Michigan to gang-related incidents in Dallas and Chicago. All of the victims on this particular day were male, seven were black and two were Hispanic. While mass shootings in the United States are widely reported, many incidents like those described in this book are not. Yet the cumulative effect is simply staggering with an average of seven youths aged 19 and under being shot dead every day in the United States. As Younge states, “their deaths did not intrude on the accepted order of things but conformed to it”. Some of the friends and families of the victims and other eyewitnesses agreed to be interviewed while others refused, leaving Younge to piece together the stories from online obituaries, social media accounts and local news reports. Due to the absence of a national database, it is possible that even more deaths occurred on that day which Younge didn’t manage to uncover through his research.
In the introduction of ‘Another Day in the Death of America’, Younge writes that it “is not a book about gun control; it is a book made possible by the absence of gun control”. He wisely keeps the focus of the book firmly on the portraits of those who died but also explores wider and more sensitive issues surrounding poverty, race, parental and personal responsibility, the lobbying power of the NRA and how gun violence is reported by journalists in the United States. Most notably, Younge explains the reasons behind the political paralysis regarding efforts to reduce gun violence and highlights the problems of framing some victims as “innocent” while others who have made bad decisions are seen as having “had it coming”.
‘Another Day in the Death of America’ is by far one of the most powerful non-fiction books I have read this year, carefully balancing thoughtful and astute analysis with human poignancy. Many thanks to Faber and Faber for sending me a review copy via NetGalley.