University of Alberta alumnus Jamie Michael is a writer in the Jewish community. Offering accessible insight into Canada’s history, his latest graphic novel project, Christie Pits, tells the true story of when Jewish and Italian immigrants squared off against Nazi-inspired thugs in the streets of Toronto. The Gateway spoke with Jamie to learn more about the project and why its history is relevant today.
Jamie Michael: This is an incredible true story of Jewish and Italian immigrants fighting against Nazi-inspired thugs in a 10,000-person brawl in Christie Pits Park in Toronto, to decide who would be considered genuinely Canadian. It ended up inspiring Canada’s first anti-hate speech legislation.
What inspired you to start Christie Pits?
Believe it or not, I was in a pub, and I heard somebody reference the story as though it was common knowledge. I thought, “I’m a young Jew in Canada and I’ve never heard of it. This is impossible, this has to be made up.” Like any millennial, I checked out Wikipedia, and the story was real. I became obsessed. I thought, “This is such an amazing story and no one knows about it.”
Did the rise of alt-right ideology or “white nationalism” influence your writing?
Christie Pits is depressingly topical. But I actually started this project before the rise of Trump, before the alt-right ideology and white nationalism began to unfold. Seeing the events in Charlottesville, I had to stop and rewrite, and think about how much nuance I want to use. What brings people to these mentalities? At some point you’re a Nazi and you have to say that. Not everyone in these rioting groups is a Nazi, but some of them are. The same holds true in Christie Pits. (more...)