Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donating or giving to you if you ask for it.
I bought this book around 8 years ago, not knowing anything about it, and I promptly forgot about it. I put it on a wishlist, not knowing anything about it, about a year ago. I was going to check it out of the library this week, but I noticed it on my bookshelf just yesterday. I had no idea I owned it, and I still had no idea what it was about when I started reading it before bed last night.
My mother called me when I was about twenty pages from the end of the book. I was barely able to stop reading it while I was at work. I was worried about the children. My concerns and anxiety were rooted deep within me. I wanted to protect them, but I felt helpless to do so. There was a mother in me I never knew was there, as I do not want children. I off-handedly told my mother that I was reading a horrible fictional account of child murders. I told her it was a good book, but that I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up. I did not want to see all of these children disappear and die. I mentioned that I had only wanted to get it, in the first place, because I was looking for some modern fiction set in Atlanta. She asked me if it was based on what happened with Wayne
Williams in the early 80s and, I am embarrassed to admit, I had no idea what she was talking about. I would have known when I read the author’s note at the end of the book, but it hit me hard. I had been fictionalizing all of it, distancing myself in that way, and then I could no longer do that. Do not misunderstand, this IS a fictional novel, but it is based on reality. The author was a child in Atlanta during the time that this book was based on.
In real life, at least 28 black children, teenagers, and adults were murdered between 1979-1981. There were others that were not officially included in the count, but potentially were killed by the same person.
Williams was arrested and charged with the murder of two adult men, and it was widely believed that he had also been responsible for the children’s murders. There are, as Jones states, many people who do not believe it was Williams and think the murderer is still at large. The most recent news story I saw on google was about veterinary forensics involving dog hair that also seems to link Williams to the crimes, but it can also be considered inconclusive. The controversy continues, but that is not what I am writing about today.
I am writing about this book. It was told from three different children’s points of view. I felt so much for all of them. The author invokes deep emotions and does not shy away from the brutal truths about class and race relations in her book. I do recommend this novel, though it is difficult to get through. If you want it. I will give it to you. Now that I know, I will never forget. I cannot imagine the fear, the horror, and the pain Atlanta went through during this time and in the years that have followed. So many broken families. My heart goes out to them. It is appalling that over 20 people were killed, mostly children, and that it took two years to even have someone to blame, no one was convicted.