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Alternadad: The True Story of One Family's Struggle to Raise a Cool Kid in America Paperback – February 12, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
His novel Never Mind the Pollacks, a hilarious treat, used a fictional "Neal Pollack" to parody the excesses and idiocy of current pop culture. But his self-awareness becomes more self-indulgent (though still witty) in this straightforward memoir of life with his artist wife, the couple's decision a few years ago to have a baby and the attendant strains that his son, Elijah, wreaks on their hipster lifestyle. Pollack details the kind of problems that can be found in almost every memoir on child-rearing, from how to clean up baby poop to figuring out how best to be a "Dad" while being a friend. But he never really defines what it is that makes his parenting so alternative other than that he wants to be a parent and still get high and stay out late. Nevertheless, Pollack hasn't lost his flair for tongue-in-cheek commentary ("I'd begun exerting cultural control over my son; I was going to shape his mind until he was exactly like me"). (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Pop-culture writer Pollack has a reputation as a fun-loving, party-going hipster. For years he danced awkwardly from relationship to relationship, until he found the person he was looking for and settled down (sort of). Now we learn his deep, dark secret: he loves his little boy, loves him with a goofy, all-consuming love that makes him (and the reader) break out into smiles nearly constantly. This book, which recounts the author's transition from hipster guy to hipster dad, is both laugh-out-loud funny and cry-softly poignant. Written in Pollack's in-your-face, no-holds-barred style, it just may be the most offbeat book about parenting ever written, and fans of the author's previous, equally idiosyncratic books--including that pop-culture staple The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature (2000)--will be utterly enraptured. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The memoir covers Pollack's journey from privileged teen in the high upper middle class suburbs of Phoenix to mid-30s college graduate with wife and child. Along the way, he establishes that he and his wife pursue a nonconformist lifestyle, refusing to work for anyone but themselves. He is a freelance writer, and she is an artist. He also writes candidly about his relationship with pot. If this book had been published in the early 1990s, I'm sure Pollack and his wife would have been labeled Gen X slackers. (The vogue term, apparently, is hipsters.)
The choice of a nonconformist lifestyle has its costs, including downward mobility. Much of Alternadad describes the trials, tribulations, and tensions the Pollacks endure shortly before and after their son is born. It's clear that they want to be good parents to their son. However, lack of means forces them to confront hard realities. Healthcare isn't cheap. Daycare isn't cheap. An organic diet isn't cheap. Good housing isn't cheap. Pot isn't cheap. The privileged, secure life of the high upper middle class doesn't grow on trees.
At the same time, having a son also presents new non-monetary obligations and responsibilities that tax the do-what-you-want-when-you-want-to aspect of their lifestyle. Irrespective of dad's desire to cruise the bars or make the music scene, the kid needs care and demands attention. And then there are the behavioral issues in daycare . . . .
Alternadad also exposes the influence of media and information overload on young parents. Pollack's wife seems to jump on the Internet at every turn, looking for answers to everything from pressing health questions (e.g., what do you do when your toddler has spaghetti up his nose) to concerns about diet and schooling. Television--and especially children's television--also figures prominently in the Pollack household. Pollack offers some entertaining observations about the various characters that are all too familiar to parents of recent vintage.
I'm sure many will disagree with parenting decisions that the Pollacks made. And some of those decisions are cringeworthy. However, that's part of what learning to be parents is all about. If you can hold your judgment of those decisions in abeyance, Alternadad is an amusing book about a youngish couple's efforts to raise a kid in our media-saturated consumer society.
Within Pollack's book, the primary message that exists is the necessity for parents to raise their children in a manner that is convergent with whom they are as parents. However, entering into marriage and ultimately parenthood forces compromise on both the individual -- Pollack, in this case -- and his spouse, Regina. A music enthusiast, and freelance writer who more than dabbles in marijuana use, Pollack's desire to remain relatively "hip" is compromised by a necessity to provide an income for his family and an obligation to fatherhood. Pollack perseveres through some self-indulgent behavior to ultimately grasp the best way parenting works for him, his wife and their son. Pollack is proud of the decisions he and his wife make in regard to Elijah's upbringing, and this helps support the unstated assertion that parents need to select a path that honors who they are as individuals, and who they are as a couple, while maintaining the focus on raising a child within these parameters.
Pollack's writing style is fluid, easy-to-read and downright amusing. He has the storytelling ability to intermingle real-life stories with his candid and often crude commentary about the people involved. Often, Pollack presents a self-deprecating manner to his writing, and this allows readers - particularly those of us who are parents - to laugh at him as we inherently laugh at ourselves for making similar mistakes in our parenting. While Pollack's humor is able to carry him through with something resembling grace, the book does digress significantly at times. Some of the stories he tells drag on for pages, and some do not deliver the humorous effect he seeks. Also, some of the decisions he makes as a father are deplorable. That said, it is hard to like everything I do in my own parenting, so it is even more difficult to be judgmental as an outsider looking from a distance at his choices.
Certainly, we all make our own choices as parents, but Pollack's book is worthwhile just for the abundance of laughs it provides. The missteps of parenting are humorous, if not in the present than certainly in retrospect. And Pollack is able to laugh at himself throughout. I have had the pleasure of reading another Pollack non-fiction book in Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, and it is written in a similar manner and style as Alternadad. They are both good selections. However, Jewball, a fictional take on a real piece of American history is my favorite Pollack book.
Yes, the book has been done before - as in Bill Cosby's Fatherhood and Paul Reiser's Babyhood. But Pollack offers his own alternate edge and provides what may ironically be the definition of mainstream fatherhood for our generation.
I truly appreciate how this book holds nothing back and allows to see Neal's family in its most unvarnished state. There are no (obvious) secrets and nothing is off-limits.
My only criticism of the book is that it seems to run out of steam about 3/4 of the way through the book. And because of the nature of the fact that Elijah and his parents are still growing and learning, there's no conclusion. Nonetheless, I was still left with a need for more closure as I turned the last page of the book. Perhaps that's why I still visit the blog every once in a while.