I have a lot of little entry points into this review, so I will just say them all and think of where to go next.
- Tayari Jones is really really really good at narrating adolescence.
- The fact that no one talks about this chapter in America is an effing crime.
- Oddly, the books narrated by children dealing with the kidnappings and murders of their peers is the least harrowing and sad book about this set of events I’ve read/read about.
Something about dealing children dealing with the deaths of their friends is somehow the palatable way into this story. Children are innocent and since they have no real concept of death, they don’t quite have a real concept of loss. Children don’t shut down their lives at loss the way adults will. I don’t mean to say that this is a weakness or an obliviousness, it’s simply a more structured view. Every time I have lost some one I have had to compartmentalize it in order to understand it, or I have been able to rationalize my own feelings. As an adult at least, as a kid, I remember struggling so much with the very concept of death, that the loss of a singular person didn’t register nearly as much as wrestling with the idea.
This novel is less harrowing than the James Baldwin book about the Atlanta murders, and less thoroughly gut-wrenching than the Toni Cade Bambara book. But instead, it tells a very real set of experiences not only of the children dealing with the loss of friends, but with the terror of being targets.
The first section is a third person account of a family trying to explain to their kids how to process the information. The second section is a second person account dealing with a kid (you, in this construction) who is a potential victim, and lastly a girl narrating her own sense of loss as a friend, but also with the vulnerabilities the Black boys and girls at the heart of this set of events experienced.