FATHERING DAUGHTERS by DeWitt Henry

FATHERING DAUGHTERS

Reflections by Men

KIRKUS REVIEW

These essays by writers including Rick Bass, Alan Cheuse, Nicholas Delbanco, Mark Pendergrast, and editors McPherson (Crabcakes, 1998, etc.) and Henry (founding editor of Ploughshares magazine), among others, strike deep into the heart of issues spanning both nurture and gender relations, and represent some of the best recent writing about manhood. Looking beyond a politicized definition of the father-daughter relationship, the editors have sought for this collection essays that express what they call “the perplexities of parenting daughters during these decades of questioning, polarization, and social change.” The results are grouped by life-stage (“Arrivals,” “Early Childhood,” “Girlhood and Adolescence,” etc.). In the opening essay, about the birth of his daughter, Lily, Phillip Lopate struts his stuff, skillfully combining humor and seriousness to arrive at a persuasive rejection of solipsism. Fictionists Adam Schwartz and Samuel Shem are both fathers of adopted Chinese orphans. Says Shem in describing his young daughter’s searching intensity, “Living with Katie is like living with a twenty-four-hour-a-day Zen master.” Gerald Early, himself an African-American, recalls teaching his teenage daughter to drive and her search for a race-free identity. DeWitt Henry worries about his teenage daughter’s late-night partying, and Gary Soto writes about living with depression as a father. All of these perspectives reveal hard-won insights about parenting girls and young women from a man’s perspective. As might be expected of any thematic collection, some of the essays here are stronger than others. But the best are truly memorable, as with McPherson’s “Disneyland,” in which separation and race figure prominently, and which incorporates a haunting jazz-like refrain; and photographer William Peterson’s “Border,” about a last trip to Mexico with a daughter dying of leukemia (“there are some things you cannot accept”). Fine personal writings, to be published for Father’s Day, that deserve a wide audience.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8070-6218-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998




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