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

by Geoffrey Canada

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While reading this book, I only thought about how relatable this text is to my students. That's why I chose it as the non-fiction book they'll read next nine-weeks. This book takes the "street" life and analyzes it through an academic lens that attempts to rationalize and understand the nuances of language and activity in a tough inner-city neighborhood. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the book shows Mr. Canada as more than a Harvard grad. He isn't the kid who avoided the streets at all costs and built his life outside of it. Instead, he used his tough upbringing to mold him into the person he is today. All too often, we teach kids that the best way to move up is to abandon their surroundings and avoid all of the troublemaking. However, it is irrational and unreasonable to believe that this course of action is possible. Instead, this book teaches that understanding your surroundings and embracing it with an eye toward a better life is how you can go to better places.
  jhuynh5 | Feb 16, 2014 |
Geoffrey Canada’s book (an updated version of the 1996 original) is an interesting and very personal account of growing up in the inner city in the era before guns were common. He contrasts that time with the current inner-city environment that is saturated with guns. His upbringing was by no means nonviolent or idyllic. However, the lack of guns meant that he and many others had a much better chance of surviving and getting out to a better life. Canada chose to instead go back and try to help the next generation. I read this book as part of my research for my long-promised blog entry on guns. The book unfortunately offers little in the way of solutions and I came away convinced that the problems and suffering caused by guns in cities may well be an intractable problem. At least, the example of Canada’s efforts provides a glimmer of hope. I would recommend the book to anyone looking for some exposure to the issues around guns, violence, and poverty in urban environments. ( )
  wbc3 | Aug 17, 2013 |
Canada is a favorite of my wife's. It's a little nearer and dearer to her since she was a teacher and later, an assistant principal in public schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx. So, I gave this a go - I found it fascinating and depressing. In just a few decades, the whole environment of inner-city childhood has become far deadlier. Although Canada tries to offer some message of hope in the epilogue, I don't hold out much hope that those that need to make the changes will do so.

The book itself is about Canada's own childhood and learning the rules of the street. Learning about respect and standing up for yourself. In the past, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing - sure, people might get hurt now and then, but the consequences were much less likely to be deadly. Today, with guns so readily available, it's a different story.

The one thing I had a problem with though - Canada talks about how his mother insisted that he and his brothers stand up for themselves. But as he grew up, it seems he was pretty much running around unsupervised. It also seems he was lucky to get onto the right path in life. His mother instilled good values to a point, but it was still some near misses and him growing up to be a positive role model seemed to hinge on more luck than he acknowledges. In the epilogue, he's talking about how society needs to turn the tide on inner city violence, but he's not calling parents into account. The first lessons we learn are at home...that sets the stage. ( )
  Sean191 | May 13, 2013 |
This is a quick read, but it was fascinating. Violence begets violence, especially in the cities, and even more so in the South Bronx. Harrowing and uplifting all in the same. ( )
  goodinthestacks | Apr 19, 2011 |
The Founder of the Harlem Children's Zone remembers his childhood in the South Bronx--a neighborhood where "sidewalk boys" learned the code of the streets: a ritual of fist, stick, and knife. More than a memoir, this is a meditation on the culture of violence in America today.
  Oakwoodlibrary | Mar 8, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0807004235, Paperback)

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, and the stakes got even higher. In this candid and riveting memoir, Canada relives a childhood in which violence stalked every street corner. "If you wonder how a fourteen-year-old can shoot another child his own age in the head and then go home to dinner," Canada writes, "you need to know you don't get there in a day, or week, or month. It takes years of preparation to be willing to commit murder, to be willing to kill or die for a corner, a color, or a leather jacket."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:05 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Through shattering storytelling, Geoffrey Canada recreates his childhood world, one in which the "sidewalk" boys learned the codes of the block from their elders and were ranked - and to some degree protected - through the rituals of fist, stick, and knife. He gives a cogent, chilling analysis of how, through an unforeseen chain of consequences set in motion in the 1960s by New York Governor Rockefeller's drug laws, everything changed on the streets. And there is a portrait of present reality - of drive-by shootings, of ever-younger, automatic weapon-toting drug runners, of gun manufacturers' cold-blooded marketing of guns to children - which follows logically from our nation's public stance on children and violence, and yet still, to this gifted writer and passionate child advocate, makes no sense at all. The author's vision for a changed future for these children, and so for our nation as a whole, is backed up by descriptions of Canada's acclaimed and innovative inner-city programs for children and their families - Peacemakers, Beacon Schools, and the Harlem Freedom Schools. His is a vision that includes governmental, community, and personal innovation and bravery and one that offers indelible stories of lives lost and of lives turned around.… (more)

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Beacon Press

Two editions of this book were published by Beacon Press.

Editions: 0807004235, 080704461X

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