Where are the Dads?
I've been reading a lot of MG and YA fiction recently and am noticing a disturbing trend. Where are the Dads? In book after book, the protagonist's father is absent or dead. Occasionally, the Dad exists, but in such an awful way they're practically villains or downright abusive. I haven't encountered a single YA or MG dad in books recently who is a great father.
As a stay-at-home dad, fatherhood's obviously important to me. But then I realized I'd fallen into the same trope. My newest novel-in-progress has an absent father! I hadn't even realized it until today!
Why do books and Hollywood ignore dads as good caregivers? Many writers seek to prevent gender stereotypes for boys, yet do not show the possility of men as nurturing fathers? How often do we see the cartoonish buffoon struggling to raise kids on screen? Or in novels, how often is the dad simply dead or gone?
Have you read books with strong, caring Dads? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
As an at-home-dad with a theatre background, I enjoy reading picture books to my three-year-old son, and then later acting out the book with him. He loves to read, and enjoys playing out the stories he enjoys most. We've had honey parties with Pooh and Piglet, mischief with Curious George, and a search for Whos with Horton on many specks. Recently, we lined up all his toy dinosaurs and gave them a wash in his toy car wash, based on Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe. We drew a red crayon doorway on our basement wall and pretended to explore the worlds beyond, using crayons to create help- based on Aaron Becker's fantastic wordless Journey trilogy. And we've had multiple trips outside, looking for dragons, inspired by Max's Dragon. He's even started making stories of his own, without prompting. On the way to the library for new books, he told me about a dragon that had passed on his way to the beach- the story had a beginning, middle, and end, and went on a good eight minutes. Maybe he'll be a storyteller like his parents someday. And he's already encouraging his new sister with books; her face lights up every time we all read one together.
I've been thinking a lot recently about wonder.
Wikipedia describes the emotional state as something similar to surprise and awe, when something unexpected happens that is deeply tied to joy. That is key. Wonder is a joyful, uplifting feeling.
Wonder is a powerful force. I'd argue, it's one of the biggest draws to speculative fiction in the first place. From the dragons of Game of Thrones to the galaxy-altering heroes of the Avengers. It's in everything that works. The trailer for the upcoming Star Wars film spends nearly half of its time on a single wondrous jump (with Rey using Force magic to leap over a TIE-fighter, and attack mid-air). I visited Disney's Pandora area in Animal Kingdom last year, and that entire section of the park is solely devoted to the wonder felt in the move Avatar, from the landscape to the two rides, to the background music (I have a feeling wonder will play heavily into the Star Wars Disney expansion as well). No focus on the movie's tension or characters, or even anything remotely antagonistic. Simply...wonder.
Wonder is essential. The examples are endless. I've been enjoying Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, and each of the three books so far ended in a moment of absolute wonder. I cheered out loud, causing my wife to turn and give me a look, when reading the climax of Oathbringer. Dorothy steps into Oz and her jaw drops, as does the readers. The children walk through the wardrobe into Narnia and the reader's eyes widen. Frodo gasps as he walks into Lothlorien, and the reader feels it time and again in Middle Earth. And the entire series of Harry Potter, from the moment he meets Hagrid on, is centered around that emotion more than any other. Wonder is essential in speculative fiction.
But why now? Why am I thinking about wonder nonstop? Because while we, as human beings, encounter wonder many times in both fiction and our lives, I think there is only one experience that creates this experience more profoundly than any other. It's the one wondrous moment, deeper than any other, that truly changes you as a person. It's happened to me once before, and it's about to happen again. Any day now, my wife and I will welcome a child into this world.
I cannot wait to have my world turned upside-down. To know that who I am will be reshaped daily by another soul, looking back at me, depending me, and changing me in ways I can't even begin to fathom at this point. This is a sense of awe and joy and deep, deep wonder at the miracle of creation. I may write about wonder and read about wonder and watch shows and movies filled with wonder. Yet, I also know that no words will ever do justice to the deeper, more powerful emotion I'm about to experience.
I can't wait for this wonder-filled moment to arrive.
I think it's worth taking a moment to fully appreciate the current environment. I'm referring, of course, to Game of Thrones.
Yes, it's publicity for a paid service, yes it's about the tv show now, but at it's heart the current Game of Thrones buzz is a reminder of how powerful books can be. I'd argue that this is only the second time in my lifetime that a book series has reshaped popular culture to this degree. The first was during the Harry Potter releases. I was working at Borders during book six's release and remember the lines, parties, insanity, and the general excitement. Potter got people talking across the world, talking about books, reading books, and excited about books. Game of Thrones has taken a slightly different tack, but I feel it's impacted society a similar way. For the past three seasons, The Washington Post publishes an article recapping the show after every episode, and they just ran a full major special illustrating every single onscreen GoT death so far. The Post!
Yes, we've had other books reach heights of success...Twilight, 50 Shades, and many others, but I don't think any have become quite as culturally significant as this since Potter. Whether you're a GoT fan or not, it's exciting to see watch novels excite a populace worldwide....
This week is the annual Writers For Hope benefit auction. Writers, readers, schools, and book lovers are invited to bid on items ranging from signed books to writing critiques and even video school visits with well-known authors. 84 publishing professionals including bestselling authors and top agents are participating this year, and I am proud to be one of the donating authors. Please take a moment to visit this wonderful event. 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, the largest USA-based anti-sexual assault organiztion. LEARN MORE HERE.
My birthday is the end of April, but this year that doesn't matter. Our baby girl is due the day before my birthday. I know what I'm getting for a gift this year. My present's wrapped tight, occasionally kicking, and I honestly can't wait to meet her.
Happy Holidays! Don't miss Pillars of Chaos, now available, and stay tuned for more book releases next year!
The next book is coming!