DAUGHTERS: On Family and Fatherhood by Gerald Early

DAUGHTERS: On Family and Fatherhood

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Early's mushy, self-conscious essays recounting discussions with his daughters, poems to them, and diary excerpts have the appeal of a stranger's family album. Indeed, Early (Lure and Loathing, 1993) remains a stranger. He hints at trouble in his marriage and admits to having felt ashamed of his children but reveals little else about himself. In a preface he claims that writing about his daughters interested him because it would give him a chance to discuss females without having to confront feminist discourse. Yet in trying to avoid any tinge of the political, Early seems to fail to connect altogether. In these scenes from Early family life, his daughters, Linnet and Rosalind, never develop distinct personalities, and it is often difficult to gauge how old they are in a given episode. In ""A Racial Education, Part Two"" Early explains that as a professor of African-American studies (Washington Univ.) he is immersed in black culture, yet he shies away from popular Afrocentric thinking and culture. This segues into disparaging comments from Linnet about classmates who claim to be Afrocentric yet have little concrete knowledge about Africa, followed by Early's reading an Etheridge Knight poem to his family, and Rosalind insisting that he read from Robert Louis Stevenson instead (""Are you trying to tell us something about being black, Daddy?""). These are all meaningful occurrences, but they cio not gel. Early has an authoritative voice that often slips into a pompous, scholarly tone, and many of the conversations with his daughters have an unnatural feeling, as though everyone in the Early household were constantly speechifying. It is difficult to swallow that when Early and Rosalind were in the car together one day and barely avoided an accident, he had the presence of mind immediately afterwards to pronounce, ""You're gonna die one day, Ros. But not today and not by my hand."" Interesting but rarely illuminating.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley