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Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America
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Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  1,744 ratings  ·  322 reviews
Long before U.S. News and World Report named him one of America's Best Leaders and Oprah Winfrey called him "an angel from God," Geoffrey Canada was a small, vulnerable, scared boy growing up in the South Bronx. Canada's world was one where "sidewalk" boys learned the codes of the block and were ranked through the rituals of fist, stick, and knife. Then the streets changed ...more
Hardcover, 179 pages
Published April 9th 1996 by Beacon Press (first published 1995)
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Kressel Housman
Steven Levitt gave this book high praise when the Freakonomics podcast did an episode on gun control, calling it, “One of the best books I’ve ever read.” Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a moving call to action on the issues of urban poverty and violence. It’s written as a personal memoir, so author Geoffrey Canada describes his own childhood in the South Bronx and the formative lessons he got about fighting. “Killers are made,” he argues. Sometimes they’re made in an army barracks, and s ...more
Fist stick knife gun honestly was a 5 . The book was a NON-FICTION classic . I actually enjoyed reading the book alot . The book spoke about actual problems happening throughout the whole united states not just in New York city . In forming all the people in the world now all the violence he grew up in . Showing them that it was not good ol ' happy times . That people's familys actually suffered from the violence in the streets . How geoffrey went from being a innocent little kid to fighting wi ...more
Thomas Slyne
Fist Stick Knife Gun is a very insightful series of comics depicting the real life violence in the late 1970's and 80's. The story follows author Geoffrey Canada's childhood and how violence played a part in it. As he grows up, you can see the level of violence increasing. From Fists, to sticks, to knives, and guns as the title explains. Violence played a big part in Geoffrey's life. Instead of condemning fighting, Geoffrey's mother insisted on fighting kids who were picking on him at school. To ...more
Geoffrey Canada's story is vivid. He remembers his childhood so well, describes it in great detail, and Jamar Nicholas' illustrations really bring it to life. This story, about Canada's integration into a violent urban life, is heartbreaking, but I couldn't stop reading. It's a great personal story of The Code of the Street.

I honestly think the epilogue does not serve the story well. It pushes the book into didactic, instead of letting Canada's experiences speak for themselves.

But I really app
Joseph Espinoza
I liked the book because it talks about his life and what he had to live through and what the struggle was for him while he was growing up. He got very detailed about what he wrote and I like how he shows his emotions while he wrote this book. I liked most that no matter how hard times were for him he found a way to get him and his brothers threw it all and tried his best for his brothers to have a good life. I didn't like how he didn't talk about his mother and what she did for him and his bro ...more
Moving, touching and inspiring. Explains the culture of violence in inner-city America, not trying to excuse it. The author has dedicated his life to trying to change that culture in a neighborhood. Will he succeed on a larger scale? I fear not, but knowing that someone who has been there is still there acting with love makes a beacon. More personal than sociological. A good companion piece to Kenneth Bancroft Clark's earlier Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power and Claude Brown's Manchild in t ...more
Giovanni Gelati
Hey,TGIF! I love to read graphic novels for many reasons, one of them is to chill and relax after a long, pleasant week of reading seriously good novels. One of my daughters told me about Jamar Nicholas, she has an interest in art, so I checked him out. This is one serious read about life and learning some hard lessons, no matter where you come from. Check out what is between the covers:
“Long before President Barack Obama praised his work as “an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty e
Badly Drawn Girl
Feb 27, 2010 Badly Drawn Girl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone

This book should be required reading for all Americans. Geoffrey Canada has not only written a coming of age story about a gifted child growing up in the ghetto but he also has a clear outline of ideas that will help reduce the violence children face today.

Geoffrey Canada survived a rough and tumble childhood, but even he was shocked when the drug trade switched over to crack and guns replaced fists and knives. Suddenly the rules of conduct no longer mattered. Guns allowed everyone to suddenly
My book club chose this book in part because of its length: short. Sadly, I only finished half of it in time for the book club, mostly because I was fussing around with other books and didn't start it until a day or so before. I finally finished it, several weeks later. I enjoyed it, and it was interesting, mostly because I am a Wire fan (no spoilers, still haven't seen the 5th season, I know, I suck), and there are a lot of parallels. Bunny Colvin and Cutty come to mind, and obviously the stree ...more
This book was an amazing non-fiction story fit into a comic. This books genre had action, drama, and even comedy to it. Before i read this book I judged it by its cover thinking it was a childish book with no meaning because it was a comic, but by the time I got near the end of the book I noticed I was actually enjoying it because I wouldn't usually read a book without being forced to and that week I went straight to reading my book on my own. I would recommend this book to anyone thats looking ...more
Jun 20, 2012 Kendra rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers, educators, youth workers, social workers
Recommended to Kendra by: John Lee
Shelves: nonfiction
I know the heart of the book is Canada's personal experience on the battlefield of the South Bronx, an experience that informs his thorough and creative response(s) to the battlefield that is now young soldiers with guns. But I was distracted, as others have mentioned, by the seeming contradiction between glorifying the fights in which he engaged as a youth and the peacemaking he endorses in his work with youth, particularly in Harlem today. Also, the book was organized in a confusing way and po ...more
Kelly Moore
This was really amazing, eye opening, and scary. Although it is clearly meant to educate, the story avoids being preachy, and I was completely drawn in. Is it appropriate for middle schoolers? I think it would be a great book to read and discuss, because there is a lot to process. Ultimately I think everyone should read this at some point - maybe in eighth grade, maybe later, depending on the student and whether they have a chance to talk about it with an adult. Some people might be put off by t ...more
A vivid glimpse into Canada's boyhood in the Bronx - how poverty and violence shaped his choices, how he grew into a smart and principled fighter, how he left the 'hood and returned to see the violence heightened, and more chaotic, thanks to evolving weapons.

With plain language and unsentimental passion, through personal stories rather than stats, Canada describes the crazy war zone that poor children in America must navigate (or die trying). Against this backdrop he closes with a thumbnail ske
The book, "Fist Stick Knife Gun" by Geoffrey Canada is an amazing book that puts you into the world of violence, drugs, alcohol, and abuse. The author Geoffrey talks about his childhood and what he had to learn to survive on the streets, and how that helped him in the future. How did he make it out? Read, "Fist Stick Knife Gun" to find out!

I really enjoyed this book a lot. Honestly, this was probably my favorite book in Mr.Lakhaney's non-fiction section. One reason I liked this book was because
Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun immediately reminded me of Jonathan Kozol's book The Shame of the Nation, where Kozol describes the restoration of segregation in schools. Canada's book provides a first-hand account of what it means to, not only grow up in that culture of violence in America's ghettos (or projects), but also what it means to really earn an education. What I most liked about his book was the fact that he presented a solution to this problem through the creation and promotion of his Harlem ...more
How does violence spread in cities? Where does the circle start? All violent criminals must have, at some point, been a sweet child who wants to love and be loved... right?

I think about that a lot because I momentarily tumbled through the world of random street violence. It's hard for me to trust that a black teenager doesn't want my head on the pavement... but I know that most people out walking just want to get back home to watch TV or see a loved one. Even though I was an outsider to the neig
My husband and I were having a conversation about why most mass shootings that happen are a male problem and he told me that I should read this book because he felt like it somewhat answered the question. This book specifically didn't answer that question, but it gave a good insight into how guns are more prevalent in our society. Geoffrey Canada is a well renowned educator who grew-up in the projects in the Bronx. He examines his boyhood and the violence and how that involved from fighting with ...more
My independent reading book this trimester was, "Fist Stick Knife Gun" by Geoffrey Canada. The book has many settings. The main setting is New York, the main setting is Union Ave where Geoffrey and his brothers grew up and learned the way of fighting and how to defend there selves. They grew up in a poor home with a single mother who did the best she could. Geoffrey had four brothers, he was the second youngest. In the book the Narrator(Geoffrey) will talk about his life as a young man and an ad ...more
Joseph Stieb
An short and eye-opening book about urban violence. Unfortunately for Canada's argument, the "plague" of violence that was engulfing America in the 1980s and early 1990s has since declined dramatically. Nevertheless, we remain one of the most violent societies in the developed world, and Canada's memoir goes a long way to explain this fact. Dismissing the admittedly weak "we used to be weak on crime in the hippy 60s and 70s" argument, Canada shows that in his childhood, almost no one had a gun. ...more
Very good book. I really enjoyed Canada's analysis of how the Rockefeller laws plus the Crack explosion of the 80's enabled a new young force of drug dealers who grew very rich quickly and yet didn't have the maturity to use their funds/power wisely.
One of my students erroneously signed this book out of our in class library as "Fish Stick, Knife Gun." My friend kept making me laugh by saying, "Stick 'em up! I have a Mrs. Pauls."
The book was a heart-breaking look into our violent society.
Jody Koch
Canada speaks of his childhood growing up in bad neighborhoods and trying hard to get out. He gives a sort of introductory lesson of what the streets are like and for a middle-class woman, it is a point of view I have not seen before. He compares the streets to a war zone, which I don't argue with, but the story itself seems sort of nostalgic for times when people just beat each other up as opposed to now, when they shoot each other. Obviously the prior is good in that there is less life loss, b ...more
Fist Stick Knife Gun is part auto-biography, part opinion piece. It’s about poverty, violence and the ineptitude of American society to address those problems. In some ways this book is dated and in some ways, it could have been written yesterday.

Geoffrey Canada begins by describing his youth growing up in the South Bronx before the proliferation of guns. He was taught by his family, the culture of the streets, and common sense, that though he may not like it, he had to be violent to protect him
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Fist Stick Knife Gun is an amazing book and it is an interesting read. Fist Stick Knife Gun is a graphic novel but still portrays a powerful message. Fist Stick Knife Gun follows Geoffrey Canada through his life in the Bronx and it shows the well developed system of unwritten laws in place. Geoff is raised with three brothers and his mom in a bad neighborhood. This neighborhood has a system of fighting set up. The winners get to travel and play on the streets while the losers get to sit on the

Joy Kirr
I'd heard of this book from a Twitter conversation about books for reluctant boys, and I had just listened to a podcast by Joshua Parker on Talks With Teachers about reaching our boys, as well:

This was a quick read, although it was nonfiction. This is the graphic novel edition, and there is obviously violence and cussing. Such was the way of Geoffrey's life in the Bronx. He doesn't soften anything, and as you read it, you realize this violence and always
Elliot Ratzman
It’s hard not to think of Geoffrey Canada as a hero. After growing up on a tough block in Harlem in the 1960s—he was good in school and in street smarts—he attended Bowdoin College, then Harvard Ed. Working with troubled inner city kids in Boston and New York, Canada has made a name for himself by being the face of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a community development model of education and services for poor children and their families. He also teaches martial arts. This memoir is a finely crafted ...more
Christina G
An economist on the radio cited this book as "required reading" for every American, and I can see why he said that. I've never lived in an area where gangs were visible on the corners, never been in a fight, never been held up. So it was healthy for me to read about Canada's upbringing and work. He describes certain American neighborhoods as war zones, and he points out that you can't even say these kids have PTSD because they're being retraumatized on the daily (so they have TSD?). And most rag ...more
Canada bemoans the glorification of violence, but several chapters contain accounts of fights he participated in or witnessed as a child. He explains that he was taken in by an older teenager, who allowed him to be 'smart' but also taught him how to fight; he brags that though he was small and in a high level academic class, he won many fights and was respected. His descriptions of the petty battles for pecking order during his childhood ring true, but he also seems nostalgic for the 'good old d ...more
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Fist Stick Knife Gun by Geoffrey Canada 1 6 Oct 10, 2011 09:07AM  
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Geoffrey Canada is an African-American social activist. He is the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America. Since 1990, Canada has been president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York.
He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College and a Master's degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
More about Geoffrey Canada...
Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America Work On Purpose Things Get Hectic: Teens Write About the Violence That Surrounds Them Voices of Determination Voices of Determination: Children that Defy the Odds: 0

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