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Dad gets top billing this time
Seems like Mother’s Day always aces out Father’s Day as a Hallmark occasion. But dads are important, too, and this selection of books aims for equal opportunity attention.
Best-selling author Brad Meltzer has been germinating ideas for Heroes for My Son since he first became a father eight years ago. The result is a unique gift book focusing on 50-some persons selected by Meltzer as role models. Each two-page spread includes a picture of the “hero,” a pertinent quote and Meltzer’s pithy rumination on how he or she qualifies for inclusion, often focusing on one key moment or turning point in a life. For example, in writing about Eleanor Roosevelt, Meltzer focuses on her visit with a group of angry war veterans: “The first lady went to the tent city. Alone. In mud and rain, she walked among the veterans. She talked to them like people. She listened.” Some selections would seem to be no-brainers in the hero department: Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, George Washington. Others represent very personal choices, including the author’s grandfather. Otherwise, Meltzer strives for both historical and contemporary focus in his list, with figures such as the Wright Brothers, airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, Oprah Winfrey and Rosa Parks. He also includes the worthy but little-known Frank Shankwitz, founder of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Heroes for My Son puts an interesting spin on a classic role-model theme.
“A son is a son till he takes him a wife; a daughter is a daughter all of her life.” That old Irish saying has the whiff of quaintness about it, but a certain truth lies within. What I Would Tell Her: 28 Devoted Dads on Bringing Up, Holding On To and Letting Go of Their Daughters is an anthology that supports that sentiment, as editor Andrea N. Richesin gathers essays by more than two dozen novelists, editors, poets and journalists, all offering insight into meaningful moments shared with their daughters. These pieces reflect the breadth of contemporary family situations—divorce, adoption, gay fatherhood, etc.—but what emerges from each is a deeper understanding of the father-daughter bond in all its mystery, specialness and almost cosmic durability.
Jay Mohr seems no more qualified than any other celebrity to hold forth on fatherhood, but in No Wonder My Parents Drank: Tales from a Stand-Up Dad, the comedian/actor manages to entertainingly expound on the experience, especially its uncertain moments and ultimate rewards. Despite his penchant for keeping his narrative light, Mohr nevertheless addresses tough subjects frankly, such as discipline and, even tougher, questions such as “What if my son is gay?” Mohr’s candor is welcome, especially on issues such as step-parenting and even artificial insemination, proof that his book isn’t simply a platform for jokes. But Mohr can be funny when he needs to be. One advantage to having kids? “You never know when you’ll need a kidney.”