Cover image for Fights : one boy's triumph over violence
Fights : one boy's triumph over violence
1st ed.
Physical Description:
246 pages : color illustrations ; 23 cm.
Added Author:
Fights is the visceral and deeply affecting memoir of artist/author Joel Christian Gill, chronicling his youth and coming of age as a Black child in a chaotic landscape of rough city streets and foreboding backwoods. --


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 GILL 1 1
Book 921 GILL 0 1
Book 921 GILL 0 1

On Order



Fights is the visceral and deeply affecting memoir of artist/author Joel Christian Gill, chronicling his youth and coming of age as a Black child in a chaotic landscape of rough city streets and foreboding backwoods.

Propelled into a world filled with uncertainty and desperation, young Joel is pushed toward using violence to solve his problems by everything and everyone around him. But fighting doesn't always yield the best results for a confused and sensitive kid who yearns for a better, more fulfilling life than the one he was born into, as Joel learns in a series of brutal conflicts that eventually lead him to question everything he has learned about what it truly means to fight for one's life.

"FIGHTS is somehow brutally raw, funny as hell, deeply sensitive and insightful in each panel." -- Nate Powell ( March trilogy)

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up--Gill, who has created many graphic novels devoted to black history, turns the focus on himself in his powerful graphic memoir. As a child, he endured physical and sexual abuse and neglect. School provided no refuge; he was bullied by other children and mistreated by teachers. Eventually Gill became like those around him, a perpetrator of violence, responding to frustration by lashing out at others. He was kept afloat by a few key friendships, the library, and art. At 18, he made a surprising but ultimately lifesaving decision. With saturated colors and expressive characters, Gill's dramatic illustrations pull readers in. The scenes depicting his mistreatment are subtle, infuriating, and devastating. His inclusion of photographs makes his story even more intimate. His language is as evocative as the visuals. He compares children to sponges, absorbing the abuse they're subjected to and eventually inflicting it on others. VERDICT Despite the heartbreak, Gill leaves readers with a message of hope--that anyone living with trauma can find a way out.--Carla Riemer, Albany High School, CA

Publisher's Weekly Review

An impoverished and violent childhood provides the background to this stirring memoir from Gill (Strange Fruit)--but it's the kindness and strength that he found in those circumstances that makes his story unforgettable. During his fragmented youth, Gill was shuffled through schools, homes, and social cliques as the child of a single mother. Though he found solace where he could (memorably in chess, music, and libraries), the disorder of his life inculcated a violent streak that wore him down as much as it kept him safe from predators. He endures sexual abuse at home, bullying in school, and is ultimately pushed into young manhood with only the barest understanding of human kindness--and yet he manages to discover the joy of art, the tenderness of first love, and ironclad friendship. In the tradition of Geoffrey Canada's Fist Stick Knife Gun, Gill's empathy for his younger self and the children he grew up alongside elevates his singular story into a passionate plea for neglected children everywhere. Gill draws himself and the kids around him as struggling against a rising tide of murky water: some of them learn to swim in this sea of aggression, while some are lost within its depths. His visuals are disarmingly whimsical (they'd be at home on Nickelodeon), with a palette unafraid of bright greens, purples, and oranges that emphasizes his youthful self's vulnerability and capacity for joy. Beyond a recounting of a hardscrabble upbringing, Gill's memoir becomes an ode to claiming peace from the experience of violence--and passing that gift on to others. (Jan.)

Booklist Review

"Children are the most perfect sponges . . . sometimes sponges get full and they just can't hold in any more filth." In Gill's relentlessly raw graphic memoir, we see firsthand how a kind and sensitive child slowly soaks up a near-constant stream of racism, abuse, and neglect, ultimately shaping him into a rightfully angry young man whose only ability to deal with the world is through violence. The focus throughout is on the formative relationships, both good and bad, with those who impacted him most strongly as he was growing up. Gill sugarcoats nothing from his childhood, and readers will wonder how he managed to thrive after the abuse and injustice he experienced. He smartly keeps things simple, from the basic sequential-panel layout to the expressive, cartoon figures, allowing the emotional story to hold center stage. Colors are mostly muted but intensify to call attention to strong emotions, of which there are plenty. Powerful and true, this will appeal to readers drawn to memoirs of youth struggling against the odds.