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Dads, grads, and June. These words connect so easily. Today in honor of dads - those we were born to and those we find along the way - we narrow the focus and highlight three books by dads about fatherhood.
A Heart that Works by Rob Delaney (2022). The star of Catastrophe pens a memoir about his child's fatal diagnosis, eventual death, and all the life that happens in between and after those two huge occurrences. Sound like a bummer? It's not. Delaney's humor and unflinching descriptions of exactly how he felt along the way are somehow uplifting in a book about the horrific tragedy of losing a child (and a brother-in-law to suicide). And yet, it is not full of inane platitudes or unrelenting optimism. As the Washington Post wrote in their review this memoir is "an account of grief that is not a series of hard-won life lessons wrapped in a gratitude journal". Delaney sprinkles much into a relatively brief book. He explores his own alcoholism, being new to a culture - London, and how he was often a crappy husband as he put his career and his needs above all because he knew his wife was so incredibly competent she had everything else covered. He writes how grateful he is he changed before he lost all that Henry's life and death highlighted ultimately mattered - his wife and family. He writes there are no reasons for anyone to lose a child, that to pretend all things happen for a reason is insane, and warns people not to ask people experiencing grief or pain what they need - but to instead just show up and start helping. I will be thinking about this book for a long time. ~ Lisa Christie
The Talk by Darrin Bell (2023). We are incredibly grateful publishers continue to recognize how graphic books provide powerful access to stories. Bell was six when his mother had The Talk with him around his wish to own a water gun. Now, Bell is a dad to a six year old and contemplating when and how he should have The Talk. This memoir follows Bell's childhood navigation of LA and young adult explorations at Berkeley into his professional choices and his life as a father. Bell's book helps readers understand the experience of Black people in America, but also some universal truths of life on this planet; inn doing so, he leaves a lasting mark on readers. As Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury stated about The Talk, “It’s nearly impossible to appreciate another person’s truth ... Bell is ... an indispensable explainer of how it feels to grow up in a world that repeatedly treats you as other. The talk with my white sons boiled down to 'Be kind.' It’s hard to overstate the distance between that admonition and 'Stay alive.'” Bell won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for 2019 for Editorial Cartooning, the 2016 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning, the 2015 RFK Award for Editorial Cartooning, and UC Berkeley’s 2015 Daily Californian Alumni of the Year Award. ~ Lisa Christie
Why Fathers Cry At Night by Kwame Alexander (2023). Bestselling author of The Crossover and other young adult books, and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander gets completely personal in this memoir. In it, he explores, with honesty, grace, and regret, many aspects of his family life, including divorce after two decades together and especially how important his daughters have always been to him, even as mutual understanding has often proven evasive. The poems are heart wrenching at times and also heartening and are paired with delicious looking recipes, essays, and any lessons he feels able to pass along. His optimism shines throughout. ~ Lisa Christie