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Father Courage: What Happens When Men Put Family First Hardcover – April 17, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (April 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151003823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151003822
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,526,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Father Courage is the perfect gift for any working couple raising a family. It's a smart, detailed, practical book about American fathers who are actually changing the pattern and breaking with the past and reorganizing their lives so that they share in the parenting and the home building and the maintenance of the family. The wonderful thing about Suzanne Braun Levine's interviews is that they are not pie-in-the-sky success stories; they are about real men and women struggling to work out a new system that serves them and their kids better. Once you read this book, you see, it can be done; the old song about the father who worked all the time and never knew his kids and then as an old man bemoaned the fact that his son "had turned out just like me" -- that song doesn't have to be true any more. My boy just got married. I'm sending Father Courage to him as a post-wedding present.
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Format: Hardcover
Despite some of its shortcomings, I do recommend this book to those men and women struggling to balance family and work responsibilities between them. 'Father Courage' gives voice to a diverse group of men who have confronted work-family dilemmas and you will likely find some that sound familiar (with an equal dose of those entirely foreign). I thought the book did a particularly nice job in exploring how men and women fundamentally approach household tasks and responsibilities differently (neither 'wrong'-just different), and how this causes friction in the home. There were a lot of times when I was nodding in agreement, thinking "Man, have I been through that before!" The shortcomings lie with the author's tendency to couch things in feminist terms: female attributes generally get a positive treatment while typically male ones less so, housework seems to be inferior to other responsibilities, "Gen-X'ers" are too individualistic for collective political action.... Occasionally, the author descended in what I felt was psychobabble like her claim that the male ability to compartmentalize subjects is a 'defense against penetration' and 'homophobic'. Uh-huh. Ultimately, the book offers little in the way of solutions, but it will help you understand some sources of stress and friction and perhaps help you and your spouse cooperate to eliminate them. For that alone, it performs a very valuable service.
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By A Customer on December 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found this an absolutely WONDERFUL book--moving, revolutionary in vision, and USEFUL in modeling how egalitarian families can function. Suzanne Braun Levine is really fair: she doesn't fudge the difficult challenges, but she also reveals the glorious rewards of genuine fathering--not only for fathers but for mothers (and certainly for children!). I'm going to give copies to every family I know. It's a ground-breaking book.
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Format: Hardcover
Using the fatherhood revolution to "ease the burdens" on overworked parents where employers fail to acknowledge the needs of families is a start but in truth, Gloria Steinem's prophecy cannot come true without employer understanding of family dynamics and the time it takes to devote to family, to oneself, and to one's spouse. Are children entitled to parental intimacy? Can they expect to achieve adult intimacy without it? Is it sufficient to receive it from only one parent? Does it matter which one? Some call it bonding, but isn't it realyy more than that, in providing the foundation for the unconditional love they will be expected to provide to spouses, and to their own children later? Men who fall victim to routines that lack sufficient time for them to appreciate their valuable role in family life may just be spinning their wheels. But everything helps; at least, it's a beginning awareness of how children behave. Now if employer's studied the same topic with the same enthusiasm they study their Profit & Loss statements each week or month, families might be able to alter the dynamics so they have a real chance to learn to dwell with each other rather than simply pass each as ships in the night, struggling to get along. Congratulations on a fine topic of immeasurable value.
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Format: Hardcover
This book surveys and interviews fathers aiming for the "triple
crown" of success at work, intimacy with family, and time for
friends. While conveying the sensible message that hard choices
have to be made and while one may be able to have anything, one
can't have everything, the book itself proves somewhat mixed. The
author presents a number of first-hand stories about the pitfalls
and payoffs of twenty-first century fatherhood. While at times the
book's through-line is hampered by her explicitly feminist
viewpoint, this bias is happily tempered by some healthy doses of
common sense and an imperfectly executed desire for fairness.
Before I could even get out of the preface and into the body of the
book, I had to get by some cursory allusions to how men allegedly
"have so much going for them in the status quo."

The tiresome mantra repeated over and over in the early pages about
how women frequently roll their eyes when asked about their
husbands' contributions to childraising itself had me rolling
my eyes before I was fifty pages into Father Courage. It seemingly
never crosses Levine's radar screens that the women passing these
ostensibly Solomonic judgments on their husbands' skills might
themselves be biased and loaded down with their own baggage. The
author can't seem to stop herself from tossing in her own
condescending allusions to those guys, who just never seem to "get
it" despite the number of times saintly women explain "it."

Mercifully, things quickly get a lot better and a lot more
interesting too. Amidst excerpts from her interviews with fathers,
Levine delves into some perplexing issues.
Read more ›
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