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.
About the author
MORGAN CAMPBELL is an award-winning journalist, currently a senior contributor at CBC Sports and a contributor to The New York Times. For over 18 years, he worked at the Toronto Star and established himself as one of Canada’s finest sports writers, displaying both a range and depth of knowledge, finding original stories and telling them with flair and nuance. He covered sports as varied as boxing, baseball and soccer. Morgan’s best work highlighted where sport intersected with off-the-field issues like race, culture, politics and business.
“This is a surprising book, a moving book that’s a love note to Campbell’s family, Black American resilience, Canada, music, and football. It’s not really about fighting as much as it is about how families can lose and sometimes find themselves in spite of everything that seeks to tear them apart: old grudges, bitter disappointments, and property. In this memoir, Campbell mixes poignant memories of his whirlwind childhood with perceptive analysis that only age and wisdom can bring. He elevates it with humour, wit, and empathy for people who aren’t necessarily empathetic. An impressive work that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to make sense of who they are and why.”
—Joel Anderson, Slate
“My Fighting Family offers a glimpse into a Black experience that is rarely discussed—what it was like for those who went so far north that they left the United States. That, plus the candid look at his own family, makes Morgan Campbell's memoir worth reading.”
—Bomani Jones, The Right Time
“Morgan Campbell’s unflinching memoir dives deep into the complicated ways history, culture, and family intersect with identity. My Fighting Family is a beautifully crafted and endlessly entertaining coming-of-age portrait. A vivid storyteller, Campbell takes readers on a journey through his family’s proud but fractured past, entangled with trauma, love, and heartbreak. It is a funny, honest, and piercing story about straddling worlds while discovering who you are.”
—Dan Robson, The Athletic
“The fights are just the framework. Literal, yes. Metaphorical, sure. But foundational, without question. They span generations, countries, races, schools, and marriages, touching every branch of the family tree. Grudges held as long as presidential terms. Scars—physical and emotional—that faded and scars that still linger faintly. Skillfully marrying personal journalism with personal narrative, Morgan Campbell appraises not only the costs of every quarrel but shows the receipts for all the choices his family had to make to create a present for themselves and a future for the generations behind them. For all the ways conflict signifies dysfunction, Campbell shows how his family not only fought but functioned through it all.”
—Julian Benbow, Boston Globe
“The most combustible question anyone can pose is ‘Who are you?’, which is why so few of us dare ask it of ourselves. Morgan Campbell has done that here. My Fighting Family is his riveting, complicated, and compulsively readable answer.”
—Cathal Kelly, author of Boy Wonders