Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Father’s Day

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I like to give my husband books of poetry when gift-giving occasions arise. I try to make my selections more a reflection of his taste than my own, but of course such gifts are also a way of sharing what appeals to me. This Father’s Day, I’m looking forward to giving him Wendell Berry’s New Collected Poems. (I rely upon your discretion, gentle reader). Berry writes with a lofty simplicity about elemental things: farming, faith, the politics of small lives lived consciously, the fragile and finicky relationships between regular people, the sparks of revelation in the friction of our passing through the world. His poems about marriage and family are particularly memorable. This collection includes “In Extremis,” a series of poems about his father’s old age, wherein repetitive arguments are a lifeline: “Exchanging foolish fire / In reasoned eloquence, / And winning no success. / We still are as we were, / And yet we do not fail, / For thus estranged we both / Oppose his loneliness.” Read on for more recommendations for the father-reader.

Profiles Co-Editor Christina Consolino writes, “I just picked up Brian Klems' Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters. Coming from a family of three girls and having three girls myself (along with a boy), my husband and I have a vested interest in this book. While I've only started reading it, I am impressed with Brian's humor and ability to engage the reader from the first page. I look forward to reading more about his adventures in fatherhood. Incidentally, I had the pleasure to listen to him at the Mad Anthony Writers Conference in April. He was a super speaker.”

Caroline Grant, Editor-in-Chief, has more than one title to recommend: “I've been reading two fatherhood books this month. The first, Van Metaxas' memoir, Conspiring to Heal, tells the story of his family's experience when his wife, Maria, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. The book offers an inspiring and very detailed look at how Van and Maria pursued alternative treatments to prolong her life, and how they managed still to be very present parents to their young son. For a change of pace, I'm also enjoying a very different book, Brian Gresko's wonderful anthology of fatherhood essays, When I First Held You. Neither sentimental nor snarky, these essays engage deeply with all aspects of fathering, from that first disorienting transition to fatherhood to the distinct terror of parenting a tween, from the poignant empty rooms left when they go off to college to how these men were fathered themselves. I love the range of voices here, the wry humor and the hard-won perspective. This is a book both to savor and also to share with the fathers in your life.”

Senior Editor Maria Scala seconds Caroline: “I am also reading When I First Held You, and was hooked from the moment I opened the book to the epigraph taken from Sophia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation. Many of the writers featured in this anthology note, in different ways, that once you have a child, ‘Your life as you know it is gone, never to return.’ In Dennis Lehane’s ‘On Love and Incompetence,’ he recalls a friend telling him, ‘Say goodbye to your peace of mind.’ And yet what he has gained in raising his children far outweighs that lost peace of mind. The writers here are not shy about sharing their thoughts on love, pride and fierce protectiveness. As Alexi Zentner writes in ‘Hurtings,’ ‘…while there is nothing I would not do to keep my daughters safe, there is also nothing in the world that can anger me as much as they can.’ The book is filled with heartfelt and often humorous revelations about fatherhood, making it a compelling read for the modern dad.”

Comment here by June 15th for a chance to win Van Metaxas' Conspiring to Heal! Make sure to leave your email address so that we can contact you if you win.



Libby Maxey lives in rural Massachussetts with her husband and two young sons. With her academic career as a medievalist having died a stunningly swift death by childbirth, she now works as an editor, writes poetry, reads when able, and sings with her local light opera company. Her work has appeared in The Mom Egg Review, Off the Coast, Tule Review, Crannóg Magazine, Mezzo Cammin and elsewhere.


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