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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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Canada gives the reader a glimpse into the life of a poor African American growing up in the inner city in the 60's and 70's. His experiences on Union Street shaped his life and his understanding of the the connection between violence and poverty. He tells a tale full of struggle and hardship, as he literally fought to survive his childhood, and later fought against violence – eventually founding the Harlem Children's Zone. Canada has become a national figure in recent years, for his work with this organization, and his memoir should, perhaps, be on required reading lists. America has some real problems with violence, drugs, and poverty, but to treat the people exposed to these issues in their day to day life like some sort of disease (like the media and society at large tends to do) is unconscionable. Subjective accounts, such as this book, could be helpful in further shifting the discourse, and helping people understand and, just maybe, start to work toward figuring out some more actual solutions by working with people in troubled situations rather than declaring policy “wars” on societal issues. If possible I will use parts of this book in my high school social studies classes, and I will likely suggest it to other teachers I know, as well. ( )
  jrnewman | May 4, 2015 |
Geoffrey Canada shares his story of growing up surrounded by violence in “Fist Stick Knife Gun”. Canada tells how everyday in his youth he dealt with some sort of violence. While he did not like to fight, he learned to in order to protect himself.
This book is not a light read. It makes you think of kids growing up in the situations Canada describes. It makes you think of the violence happening in cities around the country and the kids that are learning from it. Is violence a learned behavior? Many of the kids many just be fighting to survive and in the area they are growing up in, that may include violence. What can we do to help them? Canada was able to get out of the violent environment he grew up in. He did not turn his back on his community though, he instead developed programs in under privileged areas to help kids just like him. He wants them to know that there is more to life than violence. ( )
  kmmoore | May 3, 2015 |
An eye-opening view into a culture I cannot hope to understand, this book is a must read for any educator who will be working in the "tough" schools of their respective cities. The old adage of "violence begets violence" is one that people who have never really experienced it like to spout, helping themselves feel superior to those consumed by it. I have always been aware that the violence depicted in movies was simply a reflection and continuation of a violent undercurrent that has always existed in the poverty-stricken areas ofthe United States. I have been fortunate enough to avoid the consequences of this, but am aware of its existence and the consequences of everyone having a gun in a society where "won't back down, dont know how" is more than just the fun cry of the Mardi Gras Indians. I will never be able to understand this world fully, but the book does allow me a glimpse into it. Canada, having grown up in the tough streets before the rise of the drugs and guns that permeate the streets of today, gives readers the perspective of a survivor of one era of the war IN povery and his consternation at the current state of that conflict.
  gemerritt | May 3, 2015 |
The crux of the matter, in my opinion, is that our guest speaker teacher from John Ehret High School (Mr. Huynh?) taught this book to his students the right way. I myself would be cautious sending this book home with children fearful that their curious parents would read it, but as classroom reading I feel it would be hard to find another book more relatable to urban high school youth. This book has great utility as a springboard to get all students, especially those hailing from the inner city, more interested in reading. The book is about them. It's interesting. They can relate to it; yet, Mr. Canada's Harvard education allows for academic insight to supplement this book's autobiographical nature which gives this book relevance in an academic setting. I agree that there are interesting parallels between this book and Machiavelli's The Prince, namely each book's commentary about how violence can shape social hierarchy. Fist Stick Knife Gun also offers students from struggling environments hope that they can one day be as successful as Mr. Canada, a man who refused to run from his past but instead allowed it to mold him into the man he is today. As Rafiki from The Lion King told young Simba about his past, "You can either run from it, or ... learn from it." ( )
  rdthomps | May 1, 2015 |
This was a tough read. It portrayed violence in a direct manner. Canada's experiences are well documented and can serve well in a classroom environment. This book shows just how important education is. It offers a candid analysis of the violence that takes place in neighborhoods. The topic of violence has a lot of attached bias when covered in the news. The often graphic descriptions of violence show the importance of a social hierarchy. The general news cycle makes many generalizations. This memoir demonstrates how Geoffrey Canada learned these violent tactics but made an effort to move away from them later on and make a positive impact on the community.

This is a good read for all students. It is written in an accessible format. The anecdotes are well written and can be related to by all students. ( )
  rupsarkar | Apr 16, 2015 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:38 -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

2 editions of this book were published by Beacon Press.

Editions: 0807004235, 080704461X

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