(17/20) Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence – “20 YA Novels for Adolescents”

Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence is an autobiographical young adult graphic novel written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill. It was published on January 21, 2020 and it consists of 256 pages. The awards and nominees for the novel are:

  • New York Times Best Graphic Novel of 2020.
  • YALSA 2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.
  • 2021 Cartoonists Prize for Print Comics.
  • 2021 Eisner Awards Best Publication for Teens Nominee.

Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence is about the author’s life in the environment he grew up in as a young black man. Violence was almost like an answer to everything in the environment he grew up in. At school, he was targeted with violence (bullied), he is abused at home, and his mother who was released from prison even pushes him to be violent.

I wanted to read this graphic novel because I was interested in reading the life of a POC author. I recently read a graphic novel titled They Called Us Enemy, which was about the author’s life, the actor, George Takei, when he was in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. These types of novels are a huge interest for me because not only am I learning the lives, struggles, and experiences of POC, but I’m also learning about it from their own perspective. I don’t think there’s a better way to learn about someone’s life than the that person themself.

I recommend this graphic novel to sixth graders and up due to what I believe to be mature for elementary schoolers. For example, some of the content does deal with violence and sexual abuse. There are also lots of profanity and racial slurs that are used throughout the graphic novel. I would read it as a whole group due to how the graphic novel is about a POC author talking about his life struggles and experiences.

For read alouds, I would especially read:

  • Pgs. 27 – 33, “School Violence”.

  • Pgs. 43 – 50, “Racist Against Joel”.

Fights: One Boy’s Truimph Over Violence was a very enjoyable, but very saddening read. It makes it even harder knowing that this is based on the author’s own true story and that this was really his life experiences and struggles growing up. It’s easy to learn about history, people’s life experiences, and so on, but it is never the same as reading someone’s life struggles and experiences from that person themself. It is a personal experience that we are reading, not someone’s research of someone else’s life.

I want to explore more graphic novels like this where it is an autobiographical graphic novel. I want to expose my students to more graphic novels where they get to learn about the author’s life struggles and experiences as opposed to hearing it from someone else. I highly recommend this young adult graphic novel to our students.

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