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All Our Fathers

Fathers—it’s how women first get to know about men. They are the first Y chromosome introduced into our lives, and they invoke comparisons with all other “Y”s thereafter.

In honor of Father’s Day, I’m pointing you towards a book you should read—Every Father’s Daughter, an anthology of 24 essays by writers who are daughters. Each essay is about the particular way these daughters peer through time and personal history to know their fathers better. In the Introduction, essayist Philip Lopate sums up the great mystery of why this book was written: “…I am struck by the persistent note of missed connection.”

Missed chances, unknowable histories, scoundrels, saints, silent veterans of wars, death. Each story tells of some way the daughter cannot reach her father, some unbridgeable distance.

I was at the book launch, it occurred earlier this year at a panel at the AWP conference and the editors, publisher and several of the writers were there to introduce the themes. Everybody was happy, if nostalgic, brimming with love for their fathers, however elusive in their lives. The stories, their writers, and their fathers cover a lot of emotional territory. Embracing all of them, covering all that vast father-daughter experience, decades of time, oceans of geography, are two scaffolds that anchor every permutation of the father-daughter dyad—Love, and Longing.

The women among you will find comfort, glory, recognition, tears, tender bonds, absences. You will compare yourselves to others’ experience on the grand arc of father-daughter relationships. You’ll be envious, grateful, nostalgic, lonely for your own version of what this relationship means for you in your lifetime.

But this is not a book only for women. I want fathers to read it even more.

It’s unlikely many men will go out and buy this book for themselves, but it would make an excellent gift for Father’s Day, a birthday, a gift for the new dad or grand-dad when a child is born.

Fathers – you are no different from our mothers, our spouses, our children in the emotional landscape you occupy. You are always there, even when you are not. Read this book. You won’t find yourselves in it, you have your own stories. But you will see the space you occupy in women’s hearts. This is one of the better ways to understand your importance, and learn how much your daughters love you, need you, and want you in their lives. This is a good place to start. This is a good place to maybe catch another chance to reach across that male-female chasm before it’s too late. We are yours to reclaim.

You’ll learn how much you mean to us, how we cherish your place in our lives. This is a good place to celebrate, and for some of us, to bid farewell. Your daughters, all of us, think longingly of you, and Father’s Day is a great day to tell you so.

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