Book Review: Fights- One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill

Julia's review of Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence

Title: Fights- One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence

Author: Joel Christian Gill

Genre: Memoir/Graphic Novel

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

This book made me feel really lucky about my peaceful and abuse-free upbringing. I thought the author was very brave to not only write and illustrate a graphic novel about what he’d been through, but also shine a light on his own less positive attributes. Fights tells the the true story of a young Black boy growing up in a dangerous and unforgiving environment. The kids at school who bullying him are undoubtedly products of their equally harsh environments and over the course of the book Joel is beaten, molested, and subjected to racism and general hatred from both his peers and adults.

It’s a short but emotionally rough read and even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the art style, it was something I got used to as the story progressed. The really good thing about this graphic novel is that it handles a lot of political issues but doesn’t do so in a heavy-handed way. Everything is on a very real-world, personal scale and that makes the story more wrenching and affective. It was difficult at times to figure out who all the characters were; I’m not sure why because the author did a good job of making them look like individuals.

I guess I just had trouble figuring out what everyone’s role in the story was, especially when the author was a teenager. I also wished I had gotten more of a sense of how he resisted the pull of violent behavior. I definitely see how he triumphed when it came to getting to adulthood in one piece and becoming a man who loved and protected his family rather than abusing them, but I didn’t get a sense of how he managed to stay out of violent confrontations as a young adult. It mostly seemed like he just met a really good woman and got out of his community. I guess even though the execution of this graphic novel was solid, the message (or maybe just the way I expected it to be delivered) fell a little bit short.

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