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Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer Hardcover – June 9, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0312241360 ISBN-10: 0312241364 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (June 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312241364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312241360
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,570,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What constitutes a good father, a good husband? Miller, an accomplished poet and director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University, muses deeply on this familiar question in his lyrical recounting of his South Bronx childhood. One of three children, Miller seems bewildered by his solitary, humble father, Egberto, a Panamanian who worked nights at the post office and slept away the days, remaining emotionally remote from his wife and family. Determined to understand Egberto's nonetheless unwavering familial commitment, the author, now a father and husband himself, revisits a crucial moment at age 10 when the brooding patriarch, not an especially chatty man, told him, "I could leave your mother and be like everyone else." In the end, Miller's intense probing produces more questions than answers, particularly in the case of his late brother, who surprised everyone by becoming a monk and who died young. Meanwhile, in a startling departure from the usual memoir formula, Miller inserts the energetic voice of his sister, Marie, a nurse, to complement his own sedate observations of his life and family. This bold device works on occasion, but it often breaks the rhythm and pacing of the narrative and can be confusing. Fortunately, Miller recovers his stride in the chapters that zero in on his growth as a poet and editor, his marriages and his maturation as a man and father. Modest and sincere, this restrained memoir also succeeds as a superb document of the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s and the current African-American literary scene. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-Fatherhood is sometimes defined as creation of offspring and Miller allows readers to digest his journal of literary offspring in a very loving tribute to Howard University's African American Resource Center. For over 20 years, it has helped to provide a haven for writers and artists. Miller, the director of the center, began his own personal transformation as a writer following the deaths of his brother and father within two years of one another. He wraps readers in his musings while his journey unfolds on the campus of Howard University, circa 1968. He has traveled to the former U.S.S.R. and Cuba. His love of words has even taken him to the desert of Las Vegas where he experienced a sort of spiritual awakening. Parallel to his story is the voice of his oldest sister Marie. She inserts her extrinsic view with wit and melancholy thoughtfulness. Young adults will be instantly drawn to the stories of the collegiate lifestyle. The author describes dating pretty coeds and the nuances of attending a historically black institution of higher learning. He describes his change of name and declaring a major in Afro-American Studies as a break from familiar. He also begins to realize that he must be his own man-just as his West Indian father did when he arrived in Harlem.
Connie Freeman, Ivy Tech State College, Fort Wayne, IN
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jack L. Moline on July 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ethelbert Miller has given a gift to his children and to all of us who yearn to be good fathers. This memoir of growing up and into the life of a poet is honest in its substance, but in its form as well. Though he claims to commit to prose what poetry cannot convey, his images leap suddenly from the page and demand the careful savoring a poem requires. An off-hand remark from his father as the two of them watch television is remembered with these words: "It doesn't matter how old I am, his words will find a place in the cuff of my pants, in the corner of my coat pocket..." His reflection on his father's legacy is summed up with the poignant words which speak to every son: "My father's love was measured by the distance between us." And no excerpt can do justice to the stunning comparison between the Middle Passage and the population of African-American young men in today's prisons.
Ethelbert Miller has never forgotten a kindness shown to him -- neither by a friend nor a mentor -- and he chronicles his attempts to repay them by kindnesses in return to Black writers. For all his nurture of others, the book reveals a compelling loneliness.
Recently, he had the privilege of delivering the commencement address at his daughter's high school graduation. She introduced him with words of admiration and love which would make any father cry with gratitude and relief. "Fathering Words" is not just about the making of an Afrian American writer. It is also evidence that we may fail to become the fathers we never had, but we may (accidentally?) succeed at becoming the fathers we were meant to be.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Galbus on March 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fathering Words portrays the grief and loss one man feels when his father and brother suddenly die within two years of each other. Their deaths cause Miller to recall how seldom he and his father spoke, and yet, he always knows his father loves the family. That singular way one person cares for and remembers another is at the spiritual core of this book. What does a son inherit from the men in his family when there are few conversations? Miller compares his life and his dreams to that of his older brother, and maps out the goals for his own future as he marries, has his own children, and embarks on his career as a poet. He punctuates the story with the gracious voice of his older sister, Marie, as he imagines how the family might have looked to her. Marie carries the secrets and stories that filter down to the younger son as rumors and tales. She becomes a source of information and verification of the family history. Using a network of subtle references to religion, classical and jazz music, basketball and baseball, as well as motifs from literary works, Miller provides a number of avenues by which a broad spectrum of readers will be able to enter and inhabit his poignant text.
For those who want to write about their own lives, the book provides a model for creating scenes in small vignettes that become interconnected by the end of the chapter, as opposed to providing a direct narrative path from the beginning of a life to the present. For writers who aspire to become published, and perhaps even famous, Miller chronicles the encounters he has with a number of writers, revealing the history of African American literature in the past thirty years.
I teach Fathering Words in a senior-level college course on autobiography at the University of Southern Indiana. ...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "kadewi" on October 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is so beautifully written, so touchingly direct that I called Howard University to search out the author and tell him what a compelling book he had written. Anyone who is a father, about to be a father or contemplating being a father (whether African-American or not) will find this book touching in what it says about the frequently mute love between fathers and their sons. African-Americans families are often love mutes like Mr. Miller's-- too busy working, too focused on the quotidien to express love outside provision of food and shelter. Out of such silent, seemingly fallow ground, E. Ethelbert Miller heaps up words of love and power, fathering not only his own father, but his whole family in some of the most poetic prose you will ever read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Galbus on March 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fathering Words portrays the grief and loss one man feels when his father and brother suddenly die within two years of each other. Their deaths cause Miller to recall how seldom he and his father spoke, and yet, he always knows his father loves the family. That singular way one person cares for and remembers another is at the spiritual core of this book. What does a son inherit from the men in his family when there are few conversations? Miller compares his life and his dreams to that of his older brother, and maps out the goals for his own future as he marries, has his own children, and embarks on his career as a poet. He punctuates the story with the gracious voice of his older sister, Marie, as he imagines how the family might have looked to her. Marie carries the secrets and stories that filter down to the younger son as rumors and tales. She becomes a source of information and verification of the family history. Using a network of subtle references to religion, classical and jazz music, basketball and baseball, as well as motifs from literary works, Miller provides a number of avenues by which a broad spectrum of readers will be able to enter and inhabit his poignant text.
For those who want to write about their own lives, the book provides a model for creating scenes in small vignettes that become interconnected by the end of the chapter, as opposed to providing a direct narrative path from the beginning of a life to the present. For writers who aspire to become published, and perhaps even famous, Miller chronicles the encounters he has with a number of writers, revealing the history of African American literature in the past thirty years.
I teach Fathering Words in a senior-level college course on autobiography at the University of Southern Indiana. Readers who want more information about the author might start with his website ....
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