Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence is not a perfect book. Which is what makes it interesting and exciting. This is (as the author, Joel Christian Gill, themselves says) a memoir not a biography. These snippets of Joel growing up in Virginia, living in the ‘partments, dealing with bullies (adult and kid) are based on events that happened, people he knew and a little poetic license to move his story along. They take you on a journey of how the author learned how and when to fight. Gill learned how to burn and to try and use it for the best possible outcome.
The illustrations are simple but engaging. The colors set the mood. And what you do not see is just as important as what you do see. The colors are mostly reds, blacks, browns. The fashion of the time (mid-1970s to early 1990s) jumps off the page. Michael Jacksons jacket, net shirts, and hair “jacked to Jesus” on the gals and the “rapper” look on the guys is the most prominent and more relatable to me.
And for sensitive readers, “the word” used. It is used regularly in two different ways. Those of color will use the N word and it is outright said. But when a white character uses it, you see a stereotyped “big lipped, goofy looking, (what I once heard called) monkey faced” cartoon character in the speech bubble. This and the images used says more about what Gill and kids like him, had to overcome than any text could.
If my math is correct, Gill and I are less that two weeks apart in age. And we could not be farther apart in life experiences. This book is a decent look at someone who was/is living “parallel” to me/you. You can empathize even if you did not take the same journey, as the theme of anger is universal. And in the end, that is what this book is about, anger and how we control it or it controls us.