My Fighting Family

My Fighting Family

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The debut memoir from award-winning journalist Morgan Campbell: an incredible history of a family’s battles across generations, a hilarious and emotional coming-of-age story, and a powerful reckoning with what it means to be Black in Canada—particularly when you have strong American roots.

Morgan Campbell comes from “a fighting family,” a connection and clash that reaches back to the south side of Chicago in the 1930s. His father’s and mother’s families were both part of the Great Migration from the U.S. rural south to the industrial north, but a history of perceived slights and social-class differences solidified a great feud that only intensified over the course of the century after the families came together in marriage and split up across the border.

Morgan’s maternal grandfather, Claude Jones—a legendary grudge-holder, as well was an accomplished musician, peer of Oscar Peterson, and fixture of the Chicago jazz scene—was recruited to play some shows in Toronto, fell in love with the city, and eventually settled in Canada in the mid-1960s, paving the way for Morgan’s parents to join him amid the tumult of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. Morgan’s paternal grandmother, Granny Mary, however, remained stateside, a distance her schemes and resentments would only grow to fill. 

That fighting spirit wasn’t limited to the family’s own squabbles, though—it animated the way every generation moved through the world. From battling back as a group against white supremacist newcomers who violently resisted Black neighbours, to Morgan’s pre-teen mother burnishing her own legend by cold-cocking some racist loudmouth bullies, the lesson was clear: sometimes words weren’t enough.

In Canada, the Campbells started a family of their own, but the tensions between in-laws never ceased, even as divorce and disease threatened the very foundations of the life they’d built. Bearing witness to all of this was young Morgan, an aspiring writer, budding star athlete, and slow-jam scholar, whose deep American roots landed him an outsider status that led to its own schoolyard scraps and exposed the profound gap between Canada’s utopian multicultural reputation and the very different reality. 

Having grown up bouncing between these disparate identities and nationalities, real or imagined—Black and Canadian, Canadian and American, Campbell and Jones—My Fighting Family is a witty, wise, rich, and soulful illumination of the journey to find clarity in all that conflict.