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Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America Paperback – April 9, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-A comic adaptation of Canada's 1995 memoir illustrates 10 situations from his childhood and teen years on the streets of the South Bronx. Based on the author's personal experiences, this study of the cycle of violence explores the destructive power of escalating hostilities on individuals and communities. Nicholas's drawings effectively accentuate facial expressions and emotions.α(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; Reprint edition (April 9, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807004235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807004234
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr.Canada grew up in the 60's in the Bronx. In this book he talks about what it was like to live there. He talks about having to prove yourself or face the prospect of getting your ... kicked in the future. You get a VIVID description of what he was up against as a young person. I mean, I grew up a long way away in a much less dangerous place, and I knew exactly what he was getting at. That's a testament to his writing, and the universality of the subject. Mr. Canada recalls one episode where he is walking a few blocks out of his neighborhood, and you get a detailed view of how dangerous this was. Just walking down the street! All I can say against the book is that I would have liked even more of the authors autobiography. Later on in the book, he gets more polemical about what can be done. I agree with what he says, but as far as literary quality goes, that stuff isn't really in the same league as the earlier part of the book. Also, let me say, the author has an excellent, direct writing style, which makes what he has to say that much more powerful.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By trashcanman VINE VOICE on October 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a graphic novel in the traditional sense, "Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence" is not a particularly exciting read. However, FSKG is not a traditional graphic novel, but an illustrated memoir and examination of the street culture that gave rise to the violence that plagues our ghettos and causes hardship for so many who find themselves unable to extricate themselves and succeed in life when life has taught them nothing but aggression. The story sidesteps many opportunities to be preachy and allows the reader room to connect the dots themselves as the author simply recounts his life experiences growing up in the South Bronx and the social structure and cultural change that would eventually lead to what we now know as gang violence. Author Geoffrey Canada has spent his life educating people and attempting to offer children the chance to grow up free of violence by starting the Harlem Children's Zone, which is a program that seeks to provide the adult role models and supervision that he and so many other urban youths did not have growing up. That's what you "call putting it where your mouth is". Universal praise is hard to come by in these politically-divided times, but Mr. Canada has indeed earned it.

FSKG is really not so much a graphic novel as it is illustrated autobiographical expositionary prose. This is to say that there is very little dialogue from the characters and the story is told via narration rather than unfolding based on character interactions. As a story it lacks many things (including a climax or even a proper conclusion), but one thing it has in spades in believability. After all, one can hardly expect real life to unfold like a fictional Hollywood production or classic novel. The purpose of this comic is not to entertain, but to educate.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Canada grew up poor in the South Bronx in the '50s. Violence, then, as now, was a way of life. All boys fought - life was worse for those who refused. Violence and the rituals surrounding it established the social pecking order. In the preface to his memoir Canada says, "The difference is that we never had so many guns in our inner cities."
Canada's first memory of street violence came at age 4, when his two older brothers had a jacket stolen at the playground. The boys' mother sent them right back to fetch it, promising them a beating "ten times as bad as what that little thief could do to you," if they failed.
They left the house in tears and returned triumphant, with the jacket. Their mother sat them down and told them it was a lesson in not becoming a victim. The author, her youngest, was unconvinced.
Then a neighborhood boy who habitually refused to fight was "stretched" over a car and savagely beaten by a group of boys. "The lesson was brutal and unmistakable. No matter who you fought, he could never beat you that bad."
Canada's memoir is a thoughtful, moving portrayal of social behavior in a culture of violence. A quick study, Canada learned to use posturing, attitude and negotiation as well as his fists to minimize the number and severity of violent encounters.
But he is absolutely convinced that violence is a learned response, not innate. He and the other small boys, says Canada, were aghast at the prospect of fighting. Only fear of worse violence and a life of cowering in corners spurred them to fight.
Today, says Canada, the same imperatives operate. But guns have shattered the rituaized formality of the pecking order. Toughness is no longer determined by fighting skills or "heart" but by willingness to pull the trigger.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By CASA04@SPRYNET.COM on May 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
I grew up on the southside of Chicago. While reading this book I could relate to every experience that Mr. Canada relates. The book is easy to read. I think he identifies the problems well. Everyone who cares about children should read this book and help our children.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elesia Ashkenazy on February 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books I have read. Not only does Geoffrey Canada explain in gritty detail the inner workings of ghetto society, he also lists solid solutions, which would enable inner city youth and residents to rise above poverty and despair. We, the people, have turned a cheek for much too long. This book should be required reading for high school and college-level students.
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