Tayari Jones captures these things perfectly - that as children, we don't fear rational danger nearly as much as we fear hurt feelings from our peers and parents. That we internalise harsh, sometimes thoughtless judgements until we learn to judge ourselves more harshly than anyone.
That's not the way an adult would react, and adults learn to dismiss the reactions of children. But it's foolish to expect children to become, emotionally, tiny adults - and given that most children who are murdered, die at the hands of someone they know, I would say that it's the child's response that's apt, not the adult's.
I wanted to shake the grown-ups in this. Carrying around their own memories of being hurt children - not looking to see what they're passing on. Some of them got so close to actually looking their kid in the eye and seeing the person there, not the obligation or the thing to be moulded into just the desired shape.
'Never child born that wasn't a miracle, albeit miracle sometimes unwanted or unseen'.
'The most obscene phrase in the English language is 'unloved child''.
I look forward to reading many more books by Tayari Jones.
I grew up in Rome, GA during the time period when more than 20 African-American children were kidnapped and murdered on Atlanta's southside. I remember hating to watch the news every night because I dreaded hearing about another child being abducted or another body being found. The author of this novel grew up in Atlanta in the area where the children were taken at the same time it was going on. I can't imagine what her experience must have been like, though I can only imagine that it is similar to what is portrayed in her book. The book tells the story of a 5th grade class during this time period. Three different classmates tell the story - La Tasha, a girl on the borderline of popularity; Rodney, a boy who is shy & sweet and therefore picked on; and Octavia, a definite outcast who is called "Watusi" by her classmates because her skin is so dark. The same story is not told over and over, but begins with LaTasha's story, continues with Rodney's and ends with Octavia's. I enjoyed this plot device very much. One thing that really bothered me about the story is that the perspective was definitely that of a child. The children do not realize that their parents are doing the best they can. They do not realize the depths of their parents' love for them. I know that this is the way children are, but I still hated to read it. I thought that some of the children's reactions to their parents might have been a little over the top. I remember being angry at my mom about one thing or another, but the feelings of "she lies" or "she's a horrible person" only lasted a few hours, not all the time. Overall, this is a very good story. Ms. Jones does not really postulate about the killer's identity except to have the characters discuss that they think it must be white men and many think that it is someone posing as a person of authority such as a policeman or fireman. In her end notes, she states that Wayne Williams was believed to be the killer, but that many Atlantans believe the killer is still at large. I don't know what I believe. It makes sense that it was Wayne Williams because the killings stopped after he was arrested. However, if "the real killer" believed they could get away with the murders, they might stop just to pin the blame on Williams. It's a complicated case and still has elements of racial tension.