Graphic Memoir Review: Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill
Posted on March 24, 2020 at 9:58 am by Gene Ambaum
Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill. Oni Press, 2020. 9781549303357. 256pp.
This graphic memoir by cartoonist Joel Christian Gill is filled with painful childhood memories that include racism, violence, and bullying. (It’s worth noting Gill was the victim of sexual abuse as well — while it will be clear to older readers what’s happening, it’s not shown on the page.) His story begins with him walking with his mama, who had just gotten out of jail and was dropping him off to stay at a friend’s place for a few days — Gill sees a dead animal and a man at the side of the road. It ends with his marriage at a young age, a successful relationship which continues to this day. In between is a lot of cursing, moving, ups and downs. It’s amazing to see that Gill made it through, and that both the public library and drawing were important parts of his journey. Bookending the story of his life is Gill trying to have a talk in the present day with his son, who seems more interested in his phone and puzzled by the profound discussion about fighting that his dad is trying to have with him.
That last bit, of course, was what I identified with the most. I grew up at roughly the same time as Gill, though not in neighborhoods as tough as where he lived in, and found his life story compelling and moving. I think other adults and teens will feel the same way.
I’m keeping my copy on the shelf with Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo and the Sunny books by Matt and Jennifer Holm.