I don't want to write a picture book about gun violence.
People have asked me, if I might.
But there should be zero need for that story.
Yesterday, at a storytime, I spoke with parents about their fears, concerns, and sadness about the future day when they will have to talk to their young child about the death of her aging dog. They needed tissues as they thought about it. It is naturally sad for us to think about talking to children about the universal death that occurs at the end of a long life. It is naturally devastating to have to talk to children about deaths that have occurred to soon due to illness, accident, natural disaster, or war. It is unnaturally horrifying, and should be unnecessary, to have to talk with children about deaths due to human-to-human gun violence in their homes, on their streets, in schools, in stadiums, in theaters, in places where people dance.
This year, I began facilitating loss and bereavement groups for children and I've had to start to learning how to talk with kids about gun deaths. I've had to learn how to listen to children talk about gunshots killing people they love, people who made them feel loved, people who made them feel safe. This is not a skill set I feel proud of gaining. It is one that fills me with sorrow and shame. So, I am going to try to learn how to help prevent those conversations from having to exist at all. Sharpen and learn how to better use the skills of my vote, my voice. Luckily I have a lot of role models in my life to look to for this. Here are some places to help sharpen the stop-this skill set (such asdonate, advocate, be informed):
I don't want to write a picture book about neighborhoods where gunshots ring as regular as doorbells or one about mass shootings or ones about accidental gun deaths of children, parents, siblings, Aunts, Uncles, or friends—unless it's historical un-believable non-fiction that is laughably unsellable. As I finish this note and wonder what piece of artful writing, I could offer in it, the talented author and teaching artist Ibi Zoboi shares this poem by Nikki Giovanni. I am grateful to writers who come up with words for things that leave us speechless.