Kleist presents the true story of champion boxer, Emile Griffith.
One day while at work, in a most oppressive heat, Emile Griffith was stuffing hats in boxes, singing to himself, when several people noticed that his physique was that of a boxer. His boss, Mr. Arnold, took Emile to a local boxing gym and got him set up with a trainer and his first match. Even though Emile didn't want to hurt anyone, he found he was really good at boxing. His strategy? Hit the other guy before he has a chance to hit you. Emile would go on to win many championships and start his own line of Ladies Hats with his former shop. Emile also took several lovers along the way, but, despite their encouragement, he never wanted to get into activism or anything outside of the ring that would draw attention to his personal life. His major rival was Benny "Kid" Paret, who hurled a homophobic slur at Griffith before one of the title matches. Paret later died from his injuries sustained by Griffith during the match.
Kleist narratively has Emile relive his life towards the end of it, and tell the ghost of Paret what happened throughout, leading up to the death of Paret. The constant flashbacks and conversations Griffith has with Paret are easy to follow, and it builds a depth to the story of Griffith's guilt that would otherwise be missing. While Griffith was not a pioneer civil rights fighter, it was an open secret that he was bisexual, and his popularity despite his sexual orientation helped to normalize bisexuality to a small extent.
The heavy, dark illustrations were a little hard to get into at first, but after a few pages, it started to work for me. The only part that was difficult to follow was the fight between Griffith and Paret because they were drawn pretty similarly. It was hard to tell them apart during the action.
This story contains one scene of mutual masterbation (one of the boy's butts is in the shot, but no other bits), and a few suggestive scenes of Emile in bed with naked men (again, no bits are seen). There is also bloodshed and violence. Several characters smoke and drink alcoholic beverages.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability Level: Grades 11-12
Publication Date: July 27, 2021
ISBN: 9781910593868 (Paperback)
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: High School, Graphic Nonfiction, History, Sports, LGBTQ+
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