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

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


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807044490
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 10/12/2010
Pages: 124
Sales rank: 1,128,998
Product dimensions: 9.22(w) x 11.08(h) x 0.33(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About 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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Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
ehough75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book. I would like to read the original book. I kept getting the feeling that I was missing a few things with graphic novel. But what a great way to get students to read about history. I hope this books becomes a staple in the school systems.
mamzel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quite a few books have been reincarnated as graphic novels and I can't think of many that have a better reason to be than this memoir by Geoffrey Canada. By transforming a 179 page book into 124 pages of a more accessible format, I would think that this book would reach more of its intended target - young disadvantaged men. The subject of the book is also of interest to those readers who rarely if ever have the misfortune to experience violence first hand. It gives those people a little insight into the lives of those who grow up with it and have to deal with it on a daily basis.As he grows, Canada is confronted with the laws of the street and the retaliation that ensues if any of these laws is not followed. He learns these laws the hard way (none of them are written) and rises throught the hierarchy of the young men who have nothing else to do but hang out in the street. He graduates from one form of violence to another, following the natural progression from fist to stick to knife to gun, and in the end realizes that carrying a weapon makes it too convenient to commit violence. In the end he divests himself of the gun and remembers the lessons he learned from his mother and his church.The illustrations by Jamar Nicholas are all in white, black, and gray and are full of the raw emotions of the characters. This was a moving and inspirational book. I hope that many young people find this book and learn from Canada's experiences.
VioletBramble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the graphic novel adaptation of the book published in 1995. Geoffrey Canada is the President and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone. This is his memoir of growing up with his brothers in the South Bronx. Canada details the progression of violence in the life of inner city children. Canada started learning the code of the streets at the age of 4. All boys on the street had to prove they had heart - be willing and unafraid to fight anyone, even if you couldn't beat the other person. Canada states that a child starts to carry weapons because they lack a sense of safety in their environment. Also, that children learn very early in their school age years the impotence of adults in violent situations. They carry weapons for protection. Canada was saved by his love of reading and his Christian upbringing. He disposed of his gun before he found himself in a situation where he might kill someone. He continued to worry about being confronted by teenagers with weapons who might not be lucky enough to have his moral foundation. Since graduating from college Canada has worked at Harlem Children's Zone , which is working to change the lives of inner city children and stop the cycle of learned violence.Jamar Nicholas adapted and illustrated this edition. Nicholas is a comic artist and his illustrations are basically black and white panel based comics. While the illustrations are not as good as many graphic novels I've read, Nicholas does manage to convey powerful emotions in the facial expressions of these characters. Also, the illustrations helped me realize just how young the Canada brothers were during the events of the novel.I haven't read the original novel so I can't compare the two or comment on the faithfulness of the adaptation. I will be looking out for the original. A powerful book, a must read for anyone who works with inner city children. Highly recommended.
zzshupinga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a graphic novel adaptation of a book by the same title that was originally published in 1995. Jamar Nicholas, the artist, does a fantastic job of illustrating the words that Geoffrey Canada wrote. He captures the fear of young boys as they are forced to fight and the violence they witness growing up, and he captures the triumph they feel at overcoming an opponent or standing up for a friend. It is a compelling story and a good introduction to the varieties of lifestyles and neighborhoods seen while growing up.I've not read the original book so I can't compare where the differences in story are between the two works, but there was one area that bothered me a bit. Translating a written memoir, such as the original book, into a graphic novel means that changes have to be made to ensure the story is told in a manner that makes sense. In a few places the text became overwhelming and causes the reader to shift mental gears in how they read the book (from graphic adaptation to straight story) and it makes it a bit difficult to transition back and forth.Overall though the book is well worth the read and the illustrations really do make the story come alive.
Helcura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book contains a valuable lesson in how violence is taught. It would be a great mistake, however, to think that the lessons in this book apply only to the African American community. These same techniques and values permeate our culture and similar experiences happen to children at summer camp, on the playground, and in schools all over the world. Just ask someone who went to a classic British boarding school and you'll hear stories just like those related in this book.The author's message comes across clearly, and is enhanced by quality artwork. The story is compelling, honest and valuable.This is an adaptation of a prose book, though, and while it is a good adaptation, it is not an example of a sophisticated graphic novel, and indeed falls within the genre simply because anything with significant illustration is dropped into this group. Perhaps "illustrated memoir" would be more effective description.This book would be an excellent jumping off point for discussions about violence and values with teens. In particular, the concept of "heart" and how that is a value that is shared across cultures could lead to fruitful discussion. In addition, the effect of guns on gang cultures would be another great topic. The difference between the Irish gangs of the early and mid-twentieth century and the modern urban gang is purely a matter of the ubiquity of firearms. The base cultures and values are nearly identical.Worth owning. Wholeheartedly recommended for teens and adults.
goodinthestacks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a quick read, but it was fascinating. Violence begets violence, especially in the cities, and even more so in the South Bronx. Harrowing and uplifting all in the same.
melonbrawl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fist Stick Knife Gun should be required reading for all of us who grew up without having to worry about violence. From the outside, it's easy to recognize that life is dangerous for kids in the inner city, but it's hard to grasp it on an emotional level. Geoffrey Canada and Jamar Nicholas have given us exactly the book we need. The graphic novel format is perfect; the story is beautifully supported and enhanced by the illustrations, and the short form encourages the reader to try to take it in all at once. The combined effect is tremendous.
sheherazahde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a graphic novel adaptation of an earlier more detailed, text only, book of the same name. I would call this an autobiography, but it is not as detailed as autobiographies usually are. This autobiography just focuses on violent episodes in the author's childhood and how they shaped him. Geoffrey Canada is the president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone. He tells his story to illustrate the condition poor inner city children live in. This new edition includes the sub-subtile "A True Story in Black and White" which emphasized that this is not fiction, but also led me to believe that it would address racism. There is actually very little about racism in this story, it is just illustrated in black and white. The only overt mention of racism is that his mother's low wages were "all they paid even the most competent black women in 1958". The violence is all what we call "black on black", and mostly "child on child". There is one incident where the police are called, and prove unhelpful. The officers are white but they don't do anything overtly racist. They just re-enforce the point that adults and people in power were failing to protect children from violence. The Table of Contents is a list of pictures instead of words which is a little bit obscure on first look. The first chapter is a jacket, representing an incident where his brother's jacket was stolen. The second chapter is a can of beans, representing the day he was robbed by another child on his way back from the grocery store. The third chapter is a building, representing the social dynamics of children on his block when they were out on the street. The forth chapter is a broken pencil, representing the failure of the public school system to provide a safe learning environment. The fifth chapter is a basketball, representing his first experience with the possibility of life threatening violence. The sixth chapter is a heart, representing the necessity of being willing to fight even if you didn't want to. The seventh chapter is a shotgun, representing the first time someone pointed a gun at him. The eighth chapter is a knife, representing his first knife and how owning a weapon changed him. The ninth chapter is a hand gun, representing an incident with a gang of boys and a man with a gun. The last chapter is a book, representing how he decided to choose words over violence. I'm not sure who this book is meant for. I would not recommend it for children or young adults. It is a bit grim. It should go on the list of anyone who likes adult graphic novels such as Maus by Art Spiegelman, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It is a gripping story and I'm pleased to add it to my collection.
librarygrrrl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've not read the original memoir by Geoffrey Canada, so this was my first introduction to the book. And oh, what an introduction it was! Jamar Nicholas's illustration/interpretation made the story come alive. Highly recommended.
ryvre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book! It was heartfelt and told in a clever way. The art style fits the story very well. I especially liked how symbols instead of words were used in the table of contents.
livebug on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fist Stick Knife Gun is a fascinating personal graphic memoir of an extremely interesting person. The importance of violence, status and street cred in the South Bronx at even early elementary grades was saddening, but even more troubling was the transition from the street fights ("fists") to the weapons of today. The motivations are the same but the tools are far more lethal these days. I know of Geoffrey Canada through the Harlem Children's Project and this gave new insight to his mission in a very readable format. The art is perfectly suited to the subject matter. Definitely recommended.
owen1218 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very interesting and informative look into the life of a child who grew up in The Bronx during the 1950s and 1960s. The author gives us a picture of what it was like to be a boy living in the ghetto, and the ways that boys adapted to an environment of intense violence.Beyond all of this it's an entertaining read, depressing as it might be at times. The illustrations are rather good, and lend the story another level of depth. Kudos to whoever recognized this story would benefit from such a conversion.I have only a couple complaints. First, that the author didn't really talk about what life was like for GIRLS in the ghetto. Although I realize the author himself was a boy with no sisters, I think he'd still have some insight into the sort of violence girls experienced during his childhood. Second, I wish the book was longer, or did a better job explaining how he escaped the culture of violence and became the man he is today.But on the whole, this is a great work, and highly recommended for anyone trying to make sense of life in the ghetto or understand the history of gang violence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Part of America's history
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Helps understand drug networks and violence in inner-city communities and is a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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