Fathers and Daughters
A lot can be said about the role a father or father figure plays in his daughter’s life—whether he is there or not, the way he lives his life can shape some of the choices she makes. In describing Our Fathers, Ourselves, a new nonfiction book about the father-daughter dynamic, MSNBC.com observes, “As gender roles have evolved over the last few decades, so too has the complex dynamic between fathers and daughters.”
Gender roles have certainly changed, but the need for a father figure remains. We’ve rounded up some books that examine how daughters handle both the absence and the presence of their fathers.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Although Mr. March is not present for much of the book, his shadow looms large: his generosity towards a friend is what brings on the family’s financial ruin and his beliefs lead him to serve in the Civil War, causing his four daughters to miss him terribly. (For an exploration of Mr. March’s life-changing experiences during the Civil War as his ‘little women’ are maturing back home, you can read March by Geraldine Brooks.)
Emma by Jane Austen
Emma is preoccupied with matchmaking but not necessarily fixated on finding a husband for herself. While her father, Mr. Woodhouse, is something of a hypochondriac, Emma is nonetheless devoted to him, so much so that she when she has a chance for marriage, she wonders if she can leave him.
Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
A rather distracted father starts to pay attention to his formerly average daughter when she becomes a spelling bee wiz. He sees her not only as a spelling champ but also as a possible mystic whose connection to the Divine may rival his own, and he concentrates on her, shutting out the son he’d previously favored.
Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron
In trying to understand the life led by her father, the talented (and often depressed) novelist William Styron (author of The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice), Alexandra Styron wrote, “…my father’s path was sometimes as murky as it was long.”
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
When Danticat was a young girl, her parents immigrated to the U.S. and left her in the care of relatives in Haiti until they could send for her. She writes of her father and the uncle who helped raise her and the fate of her family amidst political turmoil in a way that is both heartwarming and haunting.
In this memoir, Campbell, a novelist whose parents separated when she was young , writes about the time she spent with her wheelchair-bound father and how physical limitations did not stand in the way of his being fully human.
Remember Mother’s Day? We looked at the mother-son relationship back then…