Kate Chisholm

One day in November

Plus: it might seem counterintuitive but programmes about art on radio often work really well

The weather was ‘treacherous’ on Saturday, 23 November 2013, the day chosen randomly by Gary Younge as the focus for his latest book, Another Day in the Death of America. As he described it, a ‘Nordic outbreak’ of snow, rain and high winds swept across the desert states and up into the northern plains. It was for many Americans a winter’s day like many others but for ten families a shot rang out sometime during those 24 hours and their lives changed for ever. Not that these ten disparate events made the national news. Death by gunshot is so commonplace in the USA that not even when those who died are so young is it considered worth highlighting, remembering, bewailing.

On average, seven young people die every day in the USA from gunshot wounds; firearms are the leading cause of death among black children under the age of 19, reported Younge. A black British journalist who writes for the Guardian, he decided to breathe life into these statistics, make them real, simply by finding out who the victims were on that day in November, how they were killed, why they were shot, who was left behind to mourn. His style is direct, unfussy, straight to the point, and made for an urgent, thought-provoking start to the day for Radio 4’s Book of the Week (produced by Hannah Marshall).

Jaiden Dixon, for instance, was only nine, one of three sons of a single mother living in a safe, modest suburb of Columbus, Ohio. He didn’t like getting up for school, his mother told Younge, but that morning, he happened to be up and ready at 7.30 when the doorbell rang. It was unusual to have a caller so early but because the area was so quiet and untroubled Jaiden went straight to the door and opened it.

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