Suzanne Braun Levine, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, gives voice to a largely unsung revolution--uplifting the nurturing role of men--in her wisely written first book, Father Courage. Observing, for instance, the trend of more and more fathers walking their children to school with a "profusion of pink and yellow and red cartoon-character backpacks slung over their shoulders," Levine notes that fatherhood is changing. And so begins her quest to investigate the often-contradictory challenges and motivations that grip and sometimes baffle today's fathers.
Using batteries of interviews with fathers from various walks of life, Levine shows how men--in the struggle to succeed at work and in parenthood--are reinventing what it means to be a father. Readers meet fathers who explore new ways of child rearing, split time with their wives to cover household chores, and cope with sacrifice when it comes to careers. Father Courage is both about and for these fathers, "who are discovering the pleasures of a dynamic relationship with their families" and who are "beginning to suspect that there are more men like themselves, although most are too busy putting one foot in front of the other to speak up."
Drawing from social science, anthropology, media, psychology, and many other sources, Father Courage wades into the currents of modern society, not only to recast our understanding of fatherhood, but to remind us that changes in fatherhood also alter motherhood and the very fabric of family life. This connection, deeply feminist at its core, explains why a woman would be invested in championing the rights of fathers. Levine even offers fathers a rallying cry: "Pick up your power," she says. "Use it to turn around the very institutions that are bestowing it on you." Why? Because as Gloria Steinem once put it, "You will never have a true democracy without democratic families to nurture it." --Byron Ricks
From Publishers Weekly
Can men have it all? Raised to be breadwinners and also nurturing parents, many contemporary fathers "disappoint those they mean to impress more than either would like." Levine has talked to fathers who are challenging "the traditional separation of church (home) and state (paid work)" about the rewards and frustrations of trying to co-parent. Frequently letting the men speak for themselves, she draws a convincing picture of an underground movement just waiting for the right moment to coalesce and set about the unfinished business of the women's movement: "It is all of a piece, the entry of women into the workplace and the integration of men into the family." Many fathers in this "transition generation" feel they face their difficulties alone and are surprised to find how many others are like them. From the birth experience at the hospital through the early months of parenthood and beyond, men often receive conflicting messages from society that encourage them to be supportive but not to get too closely involved in the dailiness of raising children. Women, too, are often unwilling to "relinquish the mystical powers attributed to motherhood" that is for many the only power they have. Levine also contends that a double standard in the workplace favors women who need to take time to be with their families but discourages men from putting family first. Writing at the "equity frontier" of "family politics," Levine provides a useful sourcebook for would-be revolutionaries and makes an eloquent plea for more public conversation about private pressures. Agent, Michael Carlisle; 10-city tour. (Apr.)
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