Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence (Graphic Novel)

( 13 )

Overview

Long before President Barack Obama praised his work as “an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty effort that is literally saving a generation of children,” and First Lady Michelle Obama called him “one of my heroes,” Geoffrey Canada was a small and scared boy growing up in the South Bronx. His childhood world was one where “sidewalk boys” learned the codes of the block and were ranked through the rituals of fist, stick, knife, and, finally, gun. In a stunning pairing, acclaimed comics creator Jamar ...

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Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence

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Overview

Long before President Barack Obama praised his work as “an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty effort that is literally saving a generation of children,” and First Lady Michelle Obama called him “one of my heroes,” Geoffrey Canada was a small and scared boy growing up in the South Bronx. His childhood world was one where “sidewalk boys” learned the codes of the block and were ranked through the rituals of fist, stick, knife, and, finally, gun. In a stunning pairing, acclaimed comics creator Jamar Nicholas presents Canada’s raw and riveting account, one of the most authentic and important true stories of urban violence ever told.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Canada, a legendary educator and crusader for inner-city-youth, first published in 1995 his revelatory account of the daunting push toward violent behavior that was a part of his Bronx childhood. This graphic adaptation by Nicholas works as a kind of youth-friendly summary of that book's conclusions. Canada's thoughtful, no-nonsense narrative begins in the Bronx in the late 1950s, after his father left him, his mother, and two brothers to fend for themselves. The spine of the story is not so much the broad array of violence on display in a neighborhood suffering from postwar white flight and increases in crime, but Canada's surgical analysis of the stages of violence and the strictly codified strata that reigned on his street and in his school. Helped by Nicholas's dramatic but low-key illustrations, Canada describes how he graduated from one level of violence to the next in a sort of ladder of self-protection. This inexorable evolution is dismaying enough before Canada moves ahead to show how those codes of violence eventually collapsed under an influx of guns. This is exactly the sort of broadly appealing and gripping nonfiction graphic novel that librarians need to be adding to their shelves. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Geoffrey Canada’s realistic yet hopeful voice finds fresh expression through the comic style of Jamar Nicholas. Canada’s account of his childhood and the role that violence played in shaping his experiences provides hard-won and crucial lessons.”
—Pedro A. Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University

“Jamar Nicholas is a master of his craft—his drawings are full of life and truly stunning.”
—Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

“I wish every city had a Geoffrey Canada.”
—President Bill Clinton

“It's a no-brainer, buy one for yourself and one to put in the hands of a young man who may benefit from it as well. The life you save may be your own.”
 - BlackSuperHero blog

“This is exactly the sort of broadly appealing and gripping nonfiction graphic novel that librarians need to be adding to their shelves.”
 - Publisher's Weekly

VOYA - Lynn Evarts
Geoffrey Canada grew up on the streets of the South Bronx in the 1950s and '60s. There he learned the pecking order of the block and of the school, and that violence was a way of life for everyone in his neighborhood. Either you learned to fight and win, or you were constantly beaten and attacked. Every day he learned the lessons of the sidewalk and the streets he grew up on, and in this graphic novel, we get to experience his lessons right along with him. We watch senseless fights over basketballs and jackets, some of which turn into deadly altercations. Because of the violence and the constant need to be wary, Canada relates through Nicholas's art the difficulty children brought up in this violence must face, focusing on and moving beyond simple survival. Canada's book of the same name came out in 1995 and was widely praised for its honest look at growing up amid urban violence. Canada and Nicholas have transformed his biographical account into an easy-to-read, affecting graphic novel. Even students who struggle with the graphic novel format will be able to enjoy this version because of its simple page layout. Canada's message remains clear, and he has found a vehicle to move his story effectively to the next generation of readers. Hand this to your struggling at-risk readers; they will appreciate Canada's experience, and hopefully, his message, too. Reviewer: Lynn Evarts
Library Journal
The original text of this brutally honest 1995 memoir of a Bronx, NY, childhood intersperses commentary and persuasive recommendations with accounts of actual experiences: from witnessing his brothers' struggle as six-year-olds to reclaim a stolen jacket to learning to fight himself by age 12 and then in college packing a gun for the feeling of immortality it gave him. But Canada finally said no to violence, earning degrees from Bowdoin and Harvard and founding Harlem Children's Zone, a model for the Obama-Biden "Promise Neighborhoods," designed to assist urban areas with high crime and low student academic achievement. Challenged with adapting Canada's complex book into a one-volume graphic novel, Nicholas (The Grosse Adventures series) has judiciously focused on the personal end, and his semirealistic black-to-grayscale art has just the right lived-in-yet-edgy feel. Adding brown hues would have upped the vibrancy, though. VERDICT Canada's original earned raves from reviewers as well as from Oprah, who called Canada "an angel from God." Nicholas's version infuses an emotional immediacy and makes Canada's message into a personal parable accessible to a wider age range. Highly recommended for tweens through adults; violence and strong language.—M.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807044490
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 10/12/2010
  • Pages: 124
  • Sales rank: 229,533
  • Product dimensions: 9.22 (w) x 11.08 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Canada is the president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit, community-based organization deemed “one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time” by the New York Times Magazine. Jonathan Kozol called him “one of the few authentic heroes of New York and one of the best friends children have, or ever will have, in our nation,” and Oprah Winfrey simply refers to him as “an angel from God.” Canada is featured in Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for “Superman”.
 
Jamar Nicholas is a Philadelphia-based artist and educator who has dedicated his career to empowering young people. Pulitzer Prize–winning editorial cartoonist Signe Wilkinson said about his work: “Nicholas has his pen on the pulse of everything worth watching.”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Excellent

    Every parent or child advocate should read this book. It is a moving story that brings attention not only to violence but the root causes of it. It is a call to action & beacon of hope in correcting the wrongs of our society in general. All though its main focus centers around large intercity issues, the morals, lessons, poverty and fears can be applied to all Americans. I have recommened this read to everyone I know.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    3 yrs ago my son had to read this for the summer. i know mr cana

    3 yrs ago my son had to read this for the summer. i know mr canada personally my daughter attends promise academy 2 i was pleased with this book. This yr my daughter is entering 7th grade and mr. canada has given them permission to read the bk for the summer im soooo glad i entered the lottery and got my daughter into promise academy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2012

    Educarion a Educational

    Part of America's history

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2011

    Scary Good

    Helps understand drug networks and violence in inner-city communities and is a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2011

    A MUST READ!!!

    Geoffrey Canada is an absolute genius and has so many brilliant ideas that we need to follow within our society. Clearly the war on drugs and violence isn't working yet his program is... we need to step back and look at the big picture and make changes. Change doesn't happen in schools, it begins in the home! It's time we make changes and follow Geoffrey Canada's ideas for a better America! This book is a must read for anyone who deals with social work or education or just anyone who is interested in the war on drugs and violence. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!!!

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    Posted November 28, 2012

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    Posted November 27, 2010

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    Posted April 10, 2011

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    Posted March 19, 2011

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    Posted December 15, 2011

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    Posted February 23, 2011

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    Posted January 16, 2011

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    Posted March 23, 2011

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