I am not a dad and have no intention of ever becoming one, so, in one sense, I am probably not the target audience of this book, nor am I perhaps the best person to review it. That being said, I still enjoyed Rad Dad. Edited by the author of the zine, Rad Dad, and the blogger of “Daddy Dialectic,” these pieces (whose contributors include a wide array of men) delve into the idea of how to raise your child with a counter-cultural viewpoint. In other words, if you’re an activist or punk rocker or some kind of “outsider,” how do you make your child aware of those ideas in a society that can seem very sexist, racist, and/or homophobic? How does the father pass on those attributes that made them into who they are, as well as made them aware of their own hegemony, as men? I find this topic interesting, especially as I get older and see more punk rockers having children. So many punk rock fans fall out of the scene as they leave their twenties and think they have to adjust their lives in a more “adult” manner. Rad Dad is seeking to show dads that they can still retain their punk rock values and be dads, too.
The book is broken down into essays in various categories that include: Birth, Babies and Toddlers; Childhood; Tweens and Teens; and Politics of Parenting: Gender, Race, Allies, Visions. Finally, there is a section of interviews with various individuals including Ian MacKaye, Jeff Chang (author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation), Ta-Nehisi Coates (writer for The Atlantic), author Steve Almond, and others. The Q&A between the editors and these individuals is fluid and insightful, and for those who aren’t parents it is also the most accessible portion of the book. The short essays that precede those interviews cover a range of topics including war, gender, sexuality, feminism, and patriarchy.
Just to be clear, though, this is not a self-help parenting book for men. This is a book of experiences fathers have had and, often times, there isn’t a happy resolution to the problems the dads are facing. As the subtitle says, these are “dispatches from the frontiers of fatherhood.” There are arguments and frustrations and, sometimes, the dads say, “I don’t know all the answers.” But I suppose, for many dads, that might bring some comfort knowing that they’re not alone in their challenges. –Kurt Morris (PM Press, PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623 / Microcosm Publishing, 636 SE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97214)