HOW TO FIGHT 'THE GOOD FIGHT' 10/25/2021
The Good Fight, a new graphic novel by Canadian Author and Green Wood community member, Ted Staunton [illustrated by Josh Rosen], has earned a spot on Toronto Life’s List of 21 Summer Reading Recommendations, CTV’s 'Ten Canadian graphic novels to add to your young readers’ bookshelf' and the 2021 Toronto Book Award long list. Ted talked with Green Wood about the book’s inspiration, creative process and relevance for young readers today.
Green Wood: You’ve written over 40 books but never a graphic novel and never a work of historical fiction. Why now? Ted Staunton: For me, stories come from 10 or 12 different places. A while ago I read a story in the New Yorker about a guy who was a master pick pocket and fan of old pick pocketing lure. He had all the jargon, like whiz mob, and I thought, man, I so want to put this in a book. That means historical, 1930s, so if it was in Toronto, Christie Pits, a place where people could pick pockets... and the story sort of spun out of this. Green Wood: It sounds as if you knew where you wanted to take it. Ted Staunton: Yes. My parents lived through this time, and my grandfather was the mayor of Toronto for the bulk of the Great Depression, from 1931 to 1934. As I did research it became apparent that Toronto was a very, very different place in the 1930s, so British and so WASP... never mind the different ethnicities, if you weren’t Protestant you were out of luck. That suddenly brought home how not just anti-Semitism but how these kinds of attitudes could become so pervasive that we don’t even notice they’re there. The fact that my grandfather was involved was an interesting sideline. He had a huge sense of fair play and honour, and he wasn’t going to put up with what was going on in the city at that time. Grandpa did succeed in having the swastika banned. I’m proud of what he did. Green Wood: How did you land on the graphic novel as a literary form? Ted Staunton: I had the idea for the book, but historical novels are a tough sell, so I began to wonder if a graphic novel might be a good hook to hang something like that on. Graphic novels are a really good way to present historical fiction in that a lot of visual description is made unnecessary. We can plunge you into the ambience of that era right away. Especially for a young reader who has little or no concept of a time that is almost 100 years ago, you get this immersion right there. Green Wood: It’s true, The Good Fight is full of the slang, music and clothing of that era. How hard was it to capture that authenticity? Ted Staunton: The 1920s, 30s and into the 40s are my go-to era for music and other cultural things. I grew up with it, but Josh had to do a phenomenal amount of work. This was not his era at all. He ended up working from things like the 1934 Eaton’s Catalogue, and people were sending him photos of what hairstyles were like in the ‘30s, what clothes kids wore and what did a man’s suit look like. I was constantly teasing him about hats. I said, ‘Josh, everybody wears a hat. You’ve got bowlers, Fedoras, homburgs, newsboy hats. We need hats. We need hats!’ Green Wood: The collaboration between writer and illustrator feels seamless. Visually, you’re transported at warp speed to the 1930s while being carried along by the fast-paced storyline. Was that hard to pull off? Ted Staunton: First of all, it took a long time. The book has been in process for almost five years, and a good chunk of that came down to giving Josh enough time to do all these illustrations. There are 220 pages of drawings, and it’s a huge undertaking. Green Wood: What do you hope young readers will take away from the book? Ted Staunton: Sadly, this story is always going to be relevant. The riot at Christie Pits became a beacon for people in those communities because it said, ‘We can stand up for this,’ but given what was on the horizon and the engrained nature of bigotry in Canadian life at the time, Christie Pits didn’t change much. It did not make Toronto a kinder, gentler place in the short run. What it boils down to is, are there things that are worth fighting for? What does it mean to fight the good fight? How can we all quietly fight the good fight all of the time? [This interview has been edited and condensed]
The Good Fight is available locally at Let's Talk Books (Cobourg, ON) and Furby House Books (Port Hope, ON).
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