When I opened the envelope and saw the book that I was to review, my immediate response was “yes.” The Young Adult novel, “The Day Tajon Got Shot,” is why I have been involved with Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD) for the past three years. The book was written by ten young women from the Teen Writers program at Beacon House located in Washington, D.C. The mission of Beacon House is to provide quality programs and activities for children and teens living in Ward 5 where violence and poverty is a prevailing issue for them.
The story, written during the onset of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, has the readers journey with Tajon on the day he was shot and killed by a police officer. Over eight days, we see the impact that the shooting has on Tajon’s family, his best friend, the police officer and his family, and the actual eyewitness. It highlights issues of race relations, domestic violence, drug abuse, and poverty to make us realize that everyone is impacted when a life is taken.
The collaboration between the coaches and mentors at Beacon House, Shootback and Shout Mouse Press, is an impressive model on how to provide children and teens a safe space and avenues to express themselves. As you turn the pages of the book, you can feel in their words, art work, poetry and photography that they have been empowered to share their voices in the midst of societal chaos. I love the way the book reads and feels like a graphic novel.
I would recommend this book as required reading for teachers, students, parents, community leaders, or anyone who wants to foster a conversation about strengthening their communities. After a destructive night protesting, Kayla, one of the characters in the book and who is Tajon’s best friend, realizes that anger may have gotten the best of her. She “decided to take the next sunrise as a rebirth, to show myself as someone who helps the community, not hurts it.” (page 61)
After reading the book, these young people have challenged me as writer to strive to always have my authentic voice on, so others can #ReadYourWorld and defy silence.
-Phyllis Cremer, book reviewer for Multicultural Children’s Book Day