I HAD A FATHER by Clark Blaise


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 A personal memoir that for honesty, interest, and the steadiness of its inner searching equals the very best of its kind, bringing to mind, for example, books like Eva Hoffman's Lost in Translation. Longtime fiction writer Blaise, now past 50, sets out once and for all to determine who he is and where he's from, neither of these questions being simple ones in Blaise's case. ``I'm a native of nowhere,'' he writes; ``I do not know where I come from because I have come from just about everywhere.'' He was born in North Dakota to a mother from Winnipeg and to a French-Canadian father who remains the central and governing mystery in his life, and who, as a glamorously alluring but compulsively self-detructive businessman and salesman, moved his wife and son endlessly from place to place in the southern, eastern, and middlewestern US throughout the years of Blaise's growing up. Geographically rootless, Blaise's life was wildly indeterminate also in matters of social class (his mother was educated, his father was not) and ethnic identity--his father, secretive and less than honest in numerous other ways as well, tried to keep his French-Canadian origins hidden, even changing his name in a doomed effort to ``mainstream'' himself into the American middle class. Out of these family origins of ethnic and cultural indeterminacy and ambiguity- -family life also included divorce, violence, loss, and abandonment--Blaise has fashioned his own often exquisitely beautiful narrative of emergent selfhood and literary coming of age, assembling a lyrically quilt-like history of family and self that isn't afraid--the book becomes a kind of latter-day Huck Finn- -to take as part of its natural theme the unformed and often barbaric conscience of a nation. A compelling and unflaggingly intelligent autobiography from the author of two novels and four books of stories (including A North American Education), now director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-201-58128-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993