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Fathering Daughters: Reflections by Men

Literally hundreds of books cast light on the mother-daughter bond, but the relationship between a girl and her other parent remains stubbornly hidden in shadow. The strikingly lucent essays in Fathering Daughters do their best to repair that imbalance. There's Rodger Kamentz, who prefers speaking English straight up rather than babbling baby talk at his infant Anya--"Why offer her ears a blurry target?"--and Rick Bass, who worries about tweaking his daughters' political consciousness too hard. You want your daughters to loathe injustice, he says, but do you want them to burn as erratically and out-of-control as you do--with that much bitterness? Psychiatrist Samuel Shem observes American gender differences with some alarm as his 3-year-old daughter anxiously considers what to wear before a play date where the boy will snub her attempts to connect. Darker tales surface from Gary Soto, drowning in depression, and William Petersen, on a vacation with a daughter dying of leukemia. A few essays are irritatingly narcissistic, but the best showcase some tremendous writers capturing murmurs that swell to a roar as they echo back from our own lives. - Francesca Coltrera

 

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Lily, Annie, Katie Chun, Anya, Mary Katherine, Lowry, Madison, Linnet, Ruth, Aviva, Francesca, Andrea, Mariko, Rachel--these are among the daughters whose stories their fathers chronicle here. All the pieces commissioned for this book by Henry, founding editor of Ploughshares, and McPherson (Crabcakes) are literate and absorbing; several have appeared elsewhere. In the most wrenching selection, Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country and Coca-Cola, relates the estrangement of his two daughters, who broke off contact with him after supposedly retrieving ""memories"" of his sexual abuse. In one of the most enlightening accounts, Samuel Shem, a psychiatrist, who with his wife traveled to China to adopt their daughter, details the gender differentiation to which boys and girls in all cultures are subject from the earliest age. Fred Viebahn (The Stain) talks about raising a biracial child with his wife, the poet Rita Dove. And in the most poignant account, William Petersen, a fishmonger and writer, relates a trip to Mexico with his daughter, who is gravely weakened by leukemia. This is a collection for those interested in bedrock human relations. - Publishers Weekly