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Fights: One Boy’s Triumph over Violence

Oni. Jan. 2020. 256p. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781549303357.
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Gr 7 Up–Gill, who has created many graphic novels devoted to black history, turns the focus on himself in his powerful graphic memoir. As a child, he endured physical and sexual abuse and neglect. School provided no refuge; he was bullied by other children and mistreated by teachers. Eventually Gill became like those around him, a perpetrator of violence, responding to frustration by lashing out at others. He was kept afloat by a few key friendships, the library, and art. At 18, he made a surprising but ultimately lifesaving decision. With saturated colors and expressive characters, Gill’s dramatic illustrations pull readers in. The scenes depicting his mistreatment are subtle, infuriating, and devastating. His inclusion of photographs makes his story even more intimate. His language is as evocative as the visuals. He compares children to sponges, absorbing the abuse they’re subjected to and eventually inflicting it on others.
VERDICT Despite the heartbreak, Gill leaves readers with a message of hope—that anyone living with trauma can find a way out.

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