Dawn of the Rad Dad

In a new book, Jeremy Adam Smith and Tomas Moniz take a radical approach to fatherhood.

All it takes is a cursory look around to see that the mainstream media is up to its eyeballs in parenting stories right now. “The volume of media related to mothers is just huge,” said local author and journalist Jeremy Adam Smith.

That might be an understatement. There’s The Huffington Post’s six-month-old parenting vertical and The New York Times‘ parenting blog, Motherlode, plus at least a dozen regularly published print magazines devoted to the topic. There’s an exploding class of mommy bloggers and, it seems, a new pop-psychology parenting book released every week. And there’s the already-infamous cover of Time magazine, on which an attachment-parenting devotee breastfeeds her three-year-old son. But even amid all the chatter, startlingly little material is targeted exclusively toward fathers, especially progressive ones.

Smith — along with fellow Bay Area author and father Tomas Moniz — is trying to change that with the publication of Rad Dad, an anthologized collection of essays culled from Moniz’ ‘zine of the same name and Smith’s blog, Daddy Dialectic, which the pair will present at University Press Books (2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley) on Thursday, May 17. Smith is fond of calling the book an “alternative fatherhood guide” — that is, a how-to that’s filtered through a lens of radical politics, and that approaches the challenges and joys of fatherhood from multiple, often underrepresented, perspectives. Like most parenting books, it’s organized mostly chronologically, from an opening section on “birth, babies, and toddlers” to another on “teens and tweens,” but suffice it to say the advice given isn’t aimed at stoic breadwinners of nuclear families.

One essay is written by a father of biracial children, one by a gay man who donates sperm to two of his lesbian friends, one by a feminist dad conflicted by his daughter’s predilection for pink, and another by a pacifist dad saddened by his son’s seemingly innate need to shoot at things. In fact, calling Rad Dad an advice book might be kind of a misnomer, as it’s much more self-reflective and nuanced than that implies. The book is far more concerned with “help[ing] dads see the ways in which our fathering is inextricably tied to issues of social and environmental justice,” Moniz writes in the introduction.

In a sense, Smith said, the book and the publications that spawned it are simply a product of their time. “In my grandfather’s day, fatherhood was one thing,” he said — that is, putting food on the table. “But now, there are many ways to be a father, and the experience of fatherhood is extremely diverse. And men are just starting to feel comfortable telling these stories.” It’s about time. 6 p.m., free. 510-548-0585 or UniversityPressBooks.com


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