Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence is an autobiographical memoir of Joel’s childhood. As a small boy, he is forced to learn how to fight in order to protect himself from kids at school and in his neighborhood. He makes the assertion that children are sponges so can only absorb so much violence and negativity before it explodes out of them, often violently as well. As he grows, Joel learns to control HIS outbursts and tries to get away from the constant threat of violence, but he is frequently the target of other people’s anger. As he becomes a teenager, he becomes a target for other males well don’t like how popular he is with the ladies, and he also gets on the wrong side of drug dealers.
Let me start by saying I have run a club on campus for 11 years dealing with domestic violence, so this topic is dear to my heart. I'm getting out the soap box on this one.
Joel’s life is heartbreaking. Childhood violence is a really difficult topic to read, and especially to see, but it is an important one for inclusion in our libraries. Physical violence in this story is depicted on the page, as you can see in the cover, and there is a bit of blood. There is also a fair amount of cussing, from the mouths of babes and adults. This book will need to come with trigger warnings for readers who might be upset by content and the frankness by which Gill tells his story. There are a few hints at sexual situations, and child sexual abuse that happens entirely unseen (panels all happen in the dark). It would be tempting not to include this book because of these difficult topics and the fear of what they might bring, but censoring a story as raw and real as this, with situations our students are unfortunately facing or have faced in their lives, means we would be telling them that their entire lives are not appropriate. This book makes us uncomfortable, and it's meant to. Gill's ending message is that he has done all the fighting and suffering so that his kids won't have to. If we shy away from the topics of this book, we may not be able to break the cycles that continue to subject children to this type of violence.
Sara’s Rating: 9/10
Suitability: Grades 10-12
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: High School, Graphic Literature, Memoir, Family, CSLA 2021
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