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Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence Paperback – September 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A searing memoir . . . Canada’s blunt observations are as refreshing as they are bold.”
—Paula Woods, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Geoffrey Canada is one of this country’s genuine heroes. His personal meditation on America’s culture of violence is a beacon of hope for our humanity.”
—Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage
 
“Canada has never lost touch with the child within himself or with the fears of the children around him struggling to reach adulthood in the violent streets of America.”
—Marian Wright Edelman, author of The Measure of Our Success

“Canada takes us on a powerful journey. . . . He is a man of hope and a wonderful storyteller.”
—Henry Hampton, executive producer, Eyes on the Prize

"Among the reformers in “Superman,” Canada emerges as the brightest star: His blend of intelligence, charisma, and moral urgency is impossible to resist. As the founder and the guiding hand of the Harlem Children’s Zone, Canada is engaged in a vastly ambitious social-development project, an attempt to transform 97 hardscrabble square blocks of the city with a comprehensive set of services for the poor, from a “baby college” for new and expectant parents to two charter schools—though he is no charter purist."—New York Magazine

“One of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. I urge people to go and find it. It’s fantastically insightful.”—Steve Levitt, Freakonomics

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; Revised edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080704461X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807044612
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ari Melman on May 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
Fist Stick Knife Gun gives a first hand look at the culture of violence in American ghetto communities. How boys are trained to fight from very young ages (Geoff starts when 4 years old). Every boy on the block is ranked in the pecking order by fighting success, and those who don't want to fight are made example of or targeted. Heart, courage, and fighting skills are what define you - literacy or rationality have no place in the pecking order. As you move from the block to elementary school to junior high, the pecking orders are restructured to deal with new people, and each time, the violence escalates.

Kids would come out after elementary school for a fight of the day. Often, the fighters wouldn't know they were picked to fight until they were pulled into the circle. The older boys oversaw and promoted fights in the younger kids, forcing them to fight so that they wouldn't get their asses kicked later in life. The intensity and randomness of surviving school made education the least of their worries.

Gangs form, often among people on the block who trust each other, in order to teach the young to fight and maintain peace in their immediate circles. The war-hardened teach newcomers the ways of the street - never give up, never rat out, never run away. Preventative action in one neighborhood but another will fail because it will jeopardize those kids status and safety when they go to school.

Geoffrey Canada gives a painfully real look at how his childhood was shaped by violence, violence that kills and maims thousands of children a year, and strips away educational priorities for the majority.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Aragon VINE VOICE on July 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book reminds me of This Is the House that Crack Built. It is an honest at times heart-breaking account of growing up quickly in the Bronx in the 60s. I'm happy to know that the author has continued to use his powers for good as a mentor and community activist. He is a community leader and in a sense a first-responder.

This adapted graphic novel allows a new generation of readers to learn from his past, his story. This book is perfect for use in the middle to high school or college classroom in a variety of classes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Kasprzycki on April 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Loved this book as it illuminated the evolution of violence in America. However, I longed for solutions, even complex ones, and was left feeling quite hopeless. Maybe that is the authentic reality... Violence against our children particularly in the inner cities is horrifying and makes even the best of us weary and pessimistic that solutions may exist. After all, our elected officials seem to have abandoned the cause outright.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rafael Perlmutter on March 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
It is a pleasure and a great feeling when you see that against all odds, things come out the right way.
As Canada describes his journey, you can see that the results look like a small dust in the middle of the sand, and you can only hope that slowly but surely there will be a better place for us and our children to live in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd Porter on June 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An easy to read, interesting view of some of the inner cities problems. The book provides more than a couple of "aha" moments about victimization, violence and guns. If you believe the NRA sound bite "The best answer to bad guys with guns, is good guys with guns," then read this book. And think it through.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Burke on February 27, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting read. It chronicles the life of Geoffrey Canada as he grows up in the inner-city, and then returns to help those still living there. It doesn't offer any real answers to the problem of inner-city violence, but it does give an interesting first-person account and explanation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mdisher on March 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Good book, a little repetative.

He's right, adults and those in charge have failed the children. That said, guns are just a tool. Before guns, the strongest and biggest ruled. Guns are the great equalizer. It sucks that they are misused, but no more than knives previously.
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Format: Paperback
This book is probably important for you to read, no matter who you are. Whether you have experienced anything that resembles the violent and distressing situations like those which are written about in Fist Stick Knife Gun, or if gang warfare isn't even a blip on your radar and a world away - this should find its way into your hands.

I was fascinated by the deep psychological twists that Canada's environment in the South Bronx produced within himself; he went through the normal social turmoil of any youth in nearly any socioeconomic climate, but to a degree of magnitude unforeseen by many who are lucky enough to be born into less hostile situations. When he wrote of the utter defeat and helplessness that he felt when he realized that his mother was, indeed, not a force which could save him outside of the atmosphere of his home - it was difficult not to feel this betrayal of innocence along with him. Similarly, when he described the codes of the street - either fight or get an embarrassingly severe beating - I felt that it truly would take nothing more than even a slight sense of humanity to feel that this need not be something any adolescent or child should experience.

This is another one of those books that makes you feel entirely enlightened as the pages get turned and, finally, the back cover closes. But just as with any realm that the mind reaches into, the attainment of knowledge only goes so far if not put to proper use. Now almost two decades after the book was written, Geoffrey Canada is the head of the Harlem Children's Zone in an effort to improve the lives of some of the most impoverished children in America. If we can all open our hearts even just a fraction of the depth that Mr. Canada has in regards to our nation's children, then the future of America - along with the entirety of the globe - will certainly be in more certain and secure hands.
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