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So Close, Yet So Far: A Glance into Monday’s Not Coming

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So Close, Yet So Far: A Glance into Monday’s Not Coming

Tiffany D. Jackson speaks at Yorktown regarding her book, Monday's Not Coming

Tiffany D. Jackson speaks at Yorktown regarding her book, Monday's Not Coming

Lindsey Bowers

Tiffany D. Jackson speaks at Yorktown regarding her book, Monday's Not Coming

Lindsey Bowers

Lindsey Bowers

Tiffany D. Jackson speaks at Yorktown regarding her book, Monday's Not Coming

Eliza Howard, Anna Trainum, Lizzie Koumans, Sentry Staff Reporter

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On April 2, 2019, Tiffany Jackson, the critically acclaimed author of Monday’s Not Coming, visited our school for the annual countywide read to spark a conversation around her book and the issue of missing black girls. Not only is up-and-coming author Jackson extremely passionate about this issue, but in her debut novel, Allegedly, she also dives into the problem of prison reform. In the next few months, we can look forward to a new novel from Jackson: Let Me Hear a Rhyme. While the main reason Jackson visited was to discuss Monday’s Not Coming and to host a book signing, she did not shy away from highlighting the lack of representation surrounding missing black girls in the District of Columbia (DC) area.

According to the school’s head librarian, Gwendolyn Nixon, a reader relates to a book by either peering into a window or looking at a mirror. This novel allows high schoolers and teachers from Arlington Public Schools (APS) to do both. It is easy for Arlingtonians to distance themselves from the prevalent issues happening in DC, but the social injustices presented in the novel are only 10 miles away. However, for students who have experienced a similar environment as seen in the novel, the perspective can allow them to find comfort in the mirrored circumstances.

“They talk about something in librarianship where when you are reading a book it can either be through a window or a mirror. So if you are reading a book through a mirror, you are relating to it as yourself. Or, if its a window, you are looking into someone’s life, which is also valuable because you are thinking I don’t really relate to that but it is interesting to hear someone else’s perspective. I think the book probably did both for a lot of people,” Nixon said.

Jackson was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She studied film and television at Howard University in DC. After graduation, she worked in the film and television industry for almost 15 years. Throughout her presentation, Jackson emphasized that while working at many different production companies, she still found time to develop her writing career. She often woke up early in the mornings and wrote in any free time she had.

Once Jackson made the exciting transition to become a full-time author, she began her journalistic career focused on exposing the social injustices facing African Americans. She found inspiration for her novel Monday’s Not Coming through two real cases. In 2008, the DC area faced the devastating Banita Jacks case, where four daughters were found brutally murdered by their mother after being missing for over eight months.

“The case made national headlines eventually, but it sent a tidal wave throughout the community because everyone was wondering how something like this could happen. How could four girls, ages ranging from four to fifteen go missing under everyone’s noses and no say anything? Not neighbors, not teachers, not social workers, nobody,” Jackson said.

Seven long years passed and more black girls continued to go missing unnoticed. In March of 2017, the hashtag #MissingDCGirls went viral, just weeks after Jackson turned in Monday’s Not Coming to her editors.

“[#]MissingDCGirls is a hashtag that went viral back in [March] of 2017. The reason why the hashtag went viral was because back in [March] of 2017, DC police released the names of 51 missing black girls that had gone missing in the last three months …. There were no Amber Alerts, their names were not all over the news, they just happened to release their photos on twitter,” Jackson said.

These horrifyingly high numbers gave Jackson more of an incentive to release her book. Overall, there is much more news coverage given to white children than to black children. For example, in the horrific Madeleine McCann disappearing case that happened in Portugal, her affluent parents were able to fund a huge investigation and mass news coverage. More than 11 million euros were raised to find their daughter. Historically, black communities lack adequate resources due to institutional oppression. This has resulted in media bias and the continuation of underreported missing black girls.

“Why are missing black children not a national priority? I say this very gently because this is something new that people are just starting to notice. They are just noticing that when white kids go missing, they are all over the news. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but I am saying that the same type of treatment is not always afforded to kids of color,” Jackson said.

The countywide decision to choose Monday’s Not Coming for the community read was due to the relevant topics covered in the book. While it is a coincidence that the novel takes place just across the Potomac River, it further allows readers to connect to the characters in the book. Director of the Center for Leadership and Public Service, Shari Benites, attended the presentation and found that students could relate to the issues faced by the main character, Claudia.

“I think that a lot of the issues in the book are issues of identity, growing up, and navigating the world and start to become more aware of things and so I think that those issues relate to any teenager because everyone is going through that. The book also takes place in DC so she references places that our students may be familiar with in the book. I think that that makes the book even more personal. And also I think that when students have a chance to hear from an author directly, it also makes it more relevant and interesting to see the author’s thought process behind writing the book,” Benites said.

Benites took the club Sister Circle, a women’s minority achievement program, to Jackson’s talk in hopes to inspire them with a powerful black woman’s story.

“[I chose to take Sister Circle to the talk] to instill a love of reading and to have books that reflect them. Some of it is also how inspiring it is to see a young black women who is so successful, to see her story and her journey. It helps them feel empowered by that,” Benites said.

At the end of the day, Jackson’s presentation was much more than just publicizing the plot of Monday’s Not Coming. On the outside, the novel seems like a story of friendship, but when you delve deeper, the theme of discrimination that exists becomes apparent.

“The book is really about social justice issues. In this book, she chose to talk about racism and inequalities in the way we talk about missing children. The issue of missing children in and of itself is a problem, but then to layer on how young missing white girls get so much more press and poor missing black girls don’t. I also like the idea that you can approach social justice in any way that works for you. So she is a writer, so she uses that to bring awareness to issues. But you can do that in a any talent that you have. In any way that you have a talent, you can address social issues,” Benites said.

Jackson’s book talks in Arlington have opened up the long awaited discussion of unheard issues faced by minorities in our community and beyond. Her dedication to social justice through her writing inspires students to voice their opinions through any medium. This book and the talk that followed impacted all readers no matter what perspective they took: window or mirror.

 

 

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So Close, Yet So Far: A Glance into Monday’s Not Coming