OF TRAGEDY AND ADVOCACY
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Publication Date: April 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 192
Leesa Ross did not expect to write a book. Neither did she expect the tragedy that her family endured, a horrific and sudden death that led her to write At Close Range. Her debut memoir is the story of what happened after her son Jon died in a freak gun accident at a party. Ross unsparingly shares the complexities of grief as it ripples through the generations of her family, then chronicles how the loss of Jon has sparked a new life for her as a prominent advocate for gun safety. Before the accident, Ross never had a motivation to consider the role that guns played in her life. Now, she revisits ways in which guns became a part of everyday life for her three sons and their friends.
Ross’s attitude towards guns is thorny. She has collectors and hunters in her family. To balance her advocacy, she joined both Moms Demand Action and the NRA. Through At Close Range, the national conversation about gun control plays out in one family’s catalyzing moment and its aftermath. However, At Close Range ultimately shows one mother’s effort to create meaning from tragedy and find a universally reasonable position and focal point: gun safety and responsible ownership.
Clueless Gent’s Rating for At Close Range
At Close Range is a story about a mother’s loss and fury, and ultimately how those emotions are transformed into something meaningful and positive. I would not consider this a story of redemption. Rather, I consider it a story about a path to activism that I do not wish on anyone.
If you read the synopsis, you’ll know what the story is about – but what you won’t know unless you read the book is the dogged strength this mother portrayed as she investigated her own son’s death, and then recreated her personal boundaries to give a voice to her anguish that would lead her to being a sought-after gun safety advocate.
“Shutting down and shutting out was my self-defense mechanism.”
The message this author wants to convey is clear, yet her writing brings an energy to the table that I hope will turn into action for parents and educators. I think that’s why she told this story to the world.
I admire her willingness to revisit the traumatic emotions she experienced following the death of her oldest son to a lack of basic gun safety. I think she did a great job of communicating her raw thoughts and emotions. I doubt that was very easy for her to do, but I’m glad she persevered.
“My voice was getting strong enough that I felt I could say whatever the ending held for me.”
The book is a short read, yet it is thoroughly engaging. I couldn’t help but empathize through most of the story. I imagine that the author’s position on gun safety – not to be confused with gun control – could have mixed reactions from readers. However, I think there is a valuable lesson for everyone within these pages, regardless of which side of the gun control fence you call home.
I highly recommend this book to all parents and all educators. I don’t think anyone is too young or too old to learn this message.
Leesa Ross is a debut author who’s transformed a tragedy into a mission for safety. After losing a son to a shooting accident, she formed Lock Arms for Life, an educational organization teaching gun safety. A Texas mother of three, she leads Lock Arms, sits on the board of Texas Gun Sense, and belongs to the NRA.
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