The Day Tajon Got Shot is now available from Shout Mouse Press. I had the honor of speaking to the writing process of this book with its youth authors for Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature. Read the entire interview on their website here.
WG: Sheila, a rather unique book with the title The Day Tajon Got Shot has just been released from Shout Mouse Press. What is unusual about the book is that it was written by middle school aged girls in Washington, DC as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. You had considerable involvement in this project. Can you talk about how it all got started?
First, I want to thank you for making space to talk about The Day Tajon Got Shot and to name the teen writers who worked tirelessly over the past two year to create this book: T’asia, J’yona, Reiyanna, Jonae, Makiya, Rose, Najae, Serenity, Jeanet, Temil.
Tajon has been Shout Mouse Press’ most ambitious book to date, and I think the best way of knowing how the project got started is hearing it from the girls themselves. You can listen to a 30 minute interview with Najae and Kathy Crutcher, Shout Mouse Founder, on Washington DC’s own Kojo Nmandi Show as well as this 3 minute video news report from WUSA 9.
For those who want the skinny, Shout Mouse Press is a nonprofit writing program and publishing house that amplifies unheard voices. In March 2015, ten teen girls from Beacon House, a community-based organization in the Edgewood Terrace community in NE Washington, DC, started writing this novel during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. They began with one central question: What really happens in a community when a black youth is the victim of violence by police? How are those individual lives affected?
Each writer took on the perspective of a central character – the victim, the police officer, the witness, the parent, the friend, the officer’s kids – and examines how it feels to be a human being on all sides of this event. Their stories thoughtfully explore issues of race, violence, loyalty, and justice in a community torn apart but seeking connection. You can check shoutmousepress.org for even more background on the book and the organization!