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Jamie Michaels/cover of "Christie Pits"
By BERNIE BELLAN

In November 2017 we published a story about young Winnipeg writer Jamie Michaels and his second foray  into the world of graphic novels. In 2016 Jamie had found some success with his very funny - and often ribald graphic novel about  a canoe trip he and two other Winnipeg buddies had taken down the Mississippi River. The title of that book was  “Canoe Boys”.


The financing for that project had come through a “kickstarter” campaign, which raised $10,000 altogether - and which allowed Jamie to break even (and even make a small profit which, he admits, went into buying a few cases of beer that disappeared quite quickly).

 In that November 2017 story we also noted that Jamie had begun work on a new project: A graphic novel about the Christy Pits riot, which took place in Toronto in 1933.
Here’s how Jamie described the novel in a press release back then: “Christie Pits is a graphic novel telling the incredible true history of when young Jewish and Italian immigrants squared off against Nazi-inspired thugs in the streets of Toronto. The story behind the 10,000 person race-riot for the soul of the great nation of Canada is written by Winnipeg lowlife and Amateur-Jewish-Cage-Fighting Sensation Jamie Michaels, and illustrated by the prodigious Doug Fedrau.
“This gritty ride through Spadina’s immigrant community tells authentic Canadian history with no holds barred. Each chapter follows an individual character and the forces that brought them into the street on August 16th, 1933. These stories and characters thread together and intermingle to give readers the real feeling of a neighbourhood.”
I asked Jamie back then whether he had ever heard about the Christie Pits riot when he was younger?
“No,” he answered. “I heard about it in a pub.”
I suggested that it was highly unlikely that younger people would have heard about that incident – unless they had read a book by someone like historian Allan Levine, who wrote about the Christie Pits riot in his book about the history of Toronto.
“And that’s such a shame,” Jamie agreed. “This is real Canadian history. This is also thematically about how Canada dealt with immigrants. Jewish immigrants in Toronto in 1933 were on the fringe of society.”
As we talked, Jamie went into some detail as to what led to Jews and Italians – on one side, fighting with mostly Anglo Saxons on the other, in what turned out to be a six-hour slugfest.
As we also noted in that same story, Jamie said that, once again, he was  going to be financing his latest project through a kickstarter campaign.

a panel from "Christie Pits"
Well, it took a little longer to finally complete “Christie Pits” than Jamie had anticipated, but he is now glad to say that the book is now available at McNally Robinson’s in Winnipeg, as well as bookstores across Canada.. He is also happy to report that his kickstarter campaign ended up raising $10,748, with “189 backers” kicking in gelt to help get the book published. As well, Jamie acknowledges the support of the Jewish Foundation of Mantioba, which awarded him a $10,000 grant.


Advance copies of his book have received glowing reviews from two esteemed historians: Irving Abella and Allan Levine.
Abella wrote: "The decision to present this important story as a historical comic book was ingenious. It reads like fiction, but is all fact."

Levine added:
"There have been other histories of anti-Semitism in Toronto and Canada during the 1930s, but none as creative as Jamie Michaels’s Christie Pits… The story he skilfully tells is well-researched with an array of fascinating characters that leap off the page owing to the realistic and vivid illustrations of Doug Fedrau. A significant and worthy literary achievement that will enlighten readers of all ages."

As of the time of writing this article, I’m about two-thirds of  the way through reading “Christie Pits”. For anyone who has never read a graphic novel, don’t confuse it with the kind of  comic book you might have read as a youngster. The plotting is quite sophisticated, the characters are multi-dimensional, and the dialogue is quite realistic.
Interspersed with the gritty drawings moreover are photos and newspaper clippings taken from the era in which the Christie Pits riot occurred. In some ways seeing the representations of the type of violence which was part and parcel of Jewish life in the 1930s - even in Canada, is quite jarring, but as a representation of a historical event which is not well known, “Christie Pits” is brilliantly imaginative.

To order your copy of Christie Pits online, to to http://www.dirtywatercomics.com/shop/christie-pits-preorder

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