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

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  2,206 Ratings  ·  375 Reviews
Recreating his childhood world in the South Bronx and examining current crime legislation, the author offers an analysis of how a chain of events set in motion by 1960s drug laws has led to the child violence on the streets today.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 9th 1996 by Beacon Press (MA) (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
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Badly Drawn Girl
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Giovanni Gelati
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
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
Joseph Espinoza
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  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
Veronica Cepellos
The only reason it took me so long to read this is because I got caught up in other things; otherwise, I would have flown through it in a matter of hours.

Canada tells a compelling story that is part-memoir, part-call-to-action. Often painful to read, his story vacillates between his reflections on his own experiences (and how those lessons equipped him for the battle he would later fight) and the deterioration of communities in urban centers in the wake of the 80s crack epidemic (and the war he
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A smart, honest account of life on the streets of the South Bronx in the late 50's/early 60's, integrated with accounts of street life in America's inner cities in the mid-90's (when it was written) and ideas for how things might be turned around. Very moving, very adept at shifting decades throughout, and sadly, very prescient, as the author correctly guessed that if we do nothing of use, the violence will only increase. Incredible and capital-I Important.
Jul 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Excellent adaptation of the book by Geoffrey Canada with art by Jamar Nicholas. As the title states there is a progressive escalation of violence...a history that too often repeats itself.
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Powerful account of Geoffrey Canada's childhood in the South Bronx and experience working in Boston and Harlem as an adult. I appreciated his candor and detailed explanations. I finished wanting to know more about several of the people he talked about through the book. What happened to Mike? What was his mother like? Where is she now? I also wonder why Geoffrey Canada doesn't have children of his own. He may feel like the children of Harlem Children's Zone are all his children, but if that's the ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
it was good book it really showed me a few things about life
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Matthew, Martha, John VL
Recommended to Bob by: Marshall Project
Published in the mid-1990s, Canada's memoir of life as an African-American, fatherless boy in the inner city, and his life's work toward creating safe zones, self-defense training, and educational opportunities for other young people, is as relevant and prescient today as ever. Not only did Canada perceive the catastrophic results of the war on drugs (primarily on crack cocaine), but he explicitly called out the then incipient menace of readily available handguns: young people who had previously ...more
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence is a great NON-FICTION classic.The touching and inspiring true story that explains the culture of violence in america. The main character explains how he evolved from fist to stick proceeding into knife then gun. The story takes place in South Bronx on cauldwell avenue. The main character and his three little brothers along with his mom lived in a apartment and as little kids they knew far too much some things that no kid his age shou ...more
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've been meaning to read Geoffrey Canada for a long time, being a fellow Bowdoin alum, and wow am I glad I did. He is both an excellent story-teller and a compelling fact-finder and persuader, and his though his work speaks for itself on so many levels, I was extremely happy to read about his life and work in his own words. It's impossible not to empathize with Canada, impossible for his stories not to humanize a world I know nothing about. And sadly, though this book was written in the 90s, it ...more
Andrew Hall
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable work. A personal history that teaches us just how natural and prevalent violence is in our society, and a call to action with realistic, relevant, and possible action steps. I believe every American should read this book, our leaders most importantly. No child should have to walk our streets in fear, to carry a gun to feel safe. May the words and experiences of Geoffrey Canada propel us to do more than understand; may this book propel us to act.
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, but I would've liked to of seen more of his upbringing. Jumped from his childhood to him helping others as a teacher. A great wake up call for all adults and some great insight and children growing up in poverty.
PJ Goelzer
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A step-by-step walk through of how violence is systematically engrained in youth in this country. For anyone looking to understand youth growing up in these situations, look no further. Eye opening.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short read from a perspective I'll never experience firsthand. I don't regret reading it, but I'm not really sure how I feel having finished it.
Sandra Mather
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book provides an excellent opportunity to understand what it is like to be a person of color growing up in an inner-city ghetto.
Nancy Pope
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: libs-678
Canada’s autobiographical account details life in the projects of South Bronx in the 1960s. Through his eyes, the reader is placed on the third floor of an apartment building: scared to go out because in order to use the playground, one has to fist fight a kid of the same size. Canada finally makes it out to the street where he learns from the “older kids” how to fight, save face, “have heart,” and protect himself and his family. The need for protection escalates over the years from learning how ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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Fist Stick Knife Gun by Geoffrey Canada 1 8 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...

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