Fatherhood as a notion has changed so much in the last few decades. Modern fathers are more evolved, involved, and ever aware of the politics and emotions that come with raising children. As fathers experiment with parenting styles, they evolve as parents while simultaneously teaching today’s youth to experiment with their own ideas and beliefs. Of course, parenting is never perfect. In this month’s Essential Reading column, we suggest titles that both highlight the concept of the modern father as well as those that have helped us understand and write about our own fathers. We also offer a few suggestions for those of you still looking for a gift for those special dads. Consider one of the staff picks as a Father’s Day gift and spread some literary love.
I read the book Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood, a collection of essays separated into five sections: “Birth, Babies, and Toddlers”; “Childhood”; “Tweens and Teens”; “Politics of Parenting: Gender, Race, Allies, Visions”; and finally, “Interviews with Rad Dads.” The book as a whole evaluates fatherhood in the modern world and doesn’t shy away from the political connotations that come with it. The essays originally appeared in the magazine, Rad Dad, before Tomas Moniz and Jeremy Adam Smith compiled the anthology of essays by and for fathers. For men, raising children in today’s society comes with its own set of perks and perils including breaking down stereotypes and creating a new sense of self for both genders without the boundaries of yesteryear. The balanced collection covers everything from the male perspective on infertility and adoption, to a gut-wrenching essay on figuring out how to deal with racism and parenting, to a light-hearted look at attempting to pass on musical tastes to a pop-crazy daughter. The honest, emotion-filled essays are an excellent read for either gender, parents or not. It’s a fascinating look at fatherhood, a subject that often takes a backseat to motherhood. Just be sure to have a box of tissues handy. At times, it can be a bit of a tearjerker.
Creative Nonfiction Editor Rae Pagliarulo shares her experience and Father’s Day pick, “I just finished my thesis, a collection of essays heavily influenced by my relationship with my father. In writing, I did a lot of research about how to write a father well—it’s important to be fair, honest, and walk the line between admiration and condemnation. (Kind of like life.) It’s no surprise that through this, I kept returning to Mary Karr’s The Liars' Club. In this memoir, which is lauded as the work that sparked the memoir wave, Karr watches her father’s habits and mistakes like a scientist might observe a rare species. She loves him, happy in his shadow, but is somehow careful never to rose-tint his anger, jealousy, or rage. It is one of the most loving portraits of a father I could ever hope to see—one that acknowledges and respects the dark while still celebrating the light.”
Part of modern fatherhood is being involved with reading as a family. Christina Consolino, Profiles Editor, suggests a book that brings her whole family together sharing, “My husband and son live and breathe soccer, so when I saw the silhouetted soccer player on the front cover of Kwame Alexander’s Booked, I knew it would be something my household would treasure. Despite having to read (on a daily basis) a dictionary that his linguistics professor father wrote, almost 13-year-old Nick Hall leads a golden life. He has a best friend, he’s star of his soccer team, and the smart, quirky girl he likes just might like him back. Soon enough, though, an unexpected announcement from his parents shatters his perfect world. This novel-in-verse features intelligent and intuitive parents, a rapping librarian (Mr. Mac), and a plethora of footnotes that explain a list of words worthy of any SAT exam. The book speaks of love, friendship, relationships, and of course, soccer. My entire family enjoyed the book, and I think that everyone from every walk of life will find something worthwhile in this brilliantly written, fast-paced, humor-filled story.”
And let’s not forgot to celebrate those modern fathers with a gift. We here at Literary Mama love to gift books. Poetry Editor Ginny Kaczmarek suggests, “A Father’s Day gift for the music lovers in our lives: Confidence or the Appearance of Confidence: The Best of the Believer Music Interviews edited by Vendela Vida and Ross Simonini. The Believer is a monthly arts and culture magazine published by McSweeney’s in San Francisco, and this book is a collection of interviews with musicians by a variety of writers between 2003 and 2013. For example, Jack White is interviewed by Dave Eggers, Questlove talks to Toure, Eddie Vedder chats with Carrie Brownstein. The result is a group of casual conversations, sometimes between friends, sometimes between mutual admirers, that illuminate the musical journey of the artists involved (and span multiple genres). The chapters are short but deep, perfect for summertime reading. The older interviews are also an interesting time capsule, particularly as musicians ponder what music, and politics, will look like in ten years—the present, for those of us reading today.”
For more essential reading suggestions and gift ideas visit our Goodreads page. Do you have a favorite book that you equate with fatherhood or Father’s Day? Share it with us in the comments below.