7 books that celebrate Black fatherhood
Father's Day may be his day, but these books demonstrate that Black fatherhood deserves to be celebrated and supported year-round.
With only two days until Father’s Day, you’ve hopefully already gotten a gift for the worthy patriarch (or several) in your life — or have a last-minute shopping spree planned. But if you’ve been blessed with the guidance and love of a great father figure, there’s no need to wait for a holiday or birthday to celebrate him. Remind him of your love and appreciation this Father’s Day and for countless days to come with a book that celebrates the care, commitment and complexities of Black fatherhood. Not sure where to start? TheGrio has compiled seven suggestions below.
‘Sixty-One: Life Lessons from Papa, On and Off the Court‘ – Chris Paul with Michael Wilbon (St. Martin’s Press, 2023)
Dropping on Tuesday, June 20, superstar NBA point guard Chris Paul’s first memoir chronicles the formative relationship shared with his late grandfather, Nathaniel “Papa” Jones, and the values imparted by which continue to influence him today.
For those familiar with Paul’s origin story, his grandfather, an upstart entrepreneur and pillar of his Winston-Salem, North Carolina, community, was only 61 years old when he was murdered the day after the future NBA Rookie of the Year and All-Star MVP signed his letter of intent to play college basketball for Wake Forest. In tribute, the day after burying his grandfather, Paul deliberately shot a tremendous 61 points at his next high school basketball game. With “Sixty-One,” he continues Papa’s legacy in this poignant memoir of family, faith and fatherhood.
‘Above Ground‘ – Clint Smith (Little, Brown; 2023)
Clint Smith, the New York Times bestselling and National Book Critics Circle award-winning author of “How the Word Is Passed” returns to poetry with “Above Ground,” a “vibrant and compelling new collection [that] traverses the vast emotional terrain of fatherhood, and explores how becoming a parent has recalibrated his sense of the world.” A follow-up to “Counting Descent,” Smith’s first award-winning book of poetry, “Above Ground” is a gorgeous and intimate exploration of young Black fatherhood penned by one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. Hear more on Smith’s episode of theGrio’s “Writing Black” podcast.
‘Pops: Learning to Be a Son and a Father‘ – Craig Melvin (Harper Collins; 2022)
As co-host of NBC’s “Today,” Craig Melvin presents a poised and polished persona. But his debut memoir, “Pops: Learning to Be a Son and a Father,” pulls back the curtain on the journalist’s complex relationship with his formerly distant and alcoholic father, the many fathers he’s celebrated on his “Dads Got This” series on “Today,” and the father figures who stepped in to support him as he navigated his way from a working-class upbringing in Columbia, South Carolina, to a successful media career. In this story of reckoning, redemption and unconditional love, Melvin makes sense of his journey through fatherhood as he makes peace with his own imperfect father.
‘My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist’s Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole‘ – Will Jawando (Macmillan; 2022)
Growing up outside Washington, D.C., future civil rights and education policy attorney and activist Will Jawando began life as too many Black boys do: misunderstood, marginalized and without consistent support from his biological father. He would ultimately land in President Obama’s White House, working on the national initiative My Brother’s Keeper and helping to prevent young men of color from falling into the same opportunity gaps he once faced.
He didn’t do it alone. “My Seven Black Fathers” is an inspiring chronicle of the many men who provided guidance, support and encouragement along Jawando’s journey, enabling him to succeed and pay it forward. The book demonstrates that fatherhood can come in many different forms, and “offers a transformative way for Black men to shape the next generation.”
‘Why Fathers Cry At Night: A Memoir In Love Poems, Letters, Recipes, And Remembrances‘, Kwame Alexander (Little, Brown; 2023)
Newbery Medalist and #1 New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander may be best known for his dozens of books for young adults and children. But his first adult book, widely acclaimed as one of the best books of spring 2023, is a powerful memoir combining poetry, recipes and narrative as Alexander reflects on his own growth into manhood.
Per the synopsis for “Why Fathers Cry At Night”:
After reeling from a series of devastating losses, including the death of his beloved mother, his marriage unraveling shortly after, and a long estrangement with one of his daughters, Kwame found the only thing that could help him process his grief was writing it down through poems. While never having cooked, he also set out to remember, write down the recipes, and cook favorite dishes from his mother and grandmother so he could feel closer to them. Kwame also writes about his complicated relationship with his dad, a minister and scholar who loved him fiercely, yet never said the words ‘I love you.’Source: Little, Brown
‘I Wish My Dad: The Power of Vulnerable Conversations between Fathers and Sons‘ – Romal Tune and Jordan Tune (Broadleaf Books; 2022)
It’s easy to wish our parents were different; to recognize them as human and vulnerable is potentially transformative. Penned by author, speaker and social entrepreneur Romal Tune and his son, Jordan, “I Wish My Dad” invites readers to share in authentic and revelatory conversations with 17 men of diverse ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds as they “unpack relationships with their fathers, learn to work through emotional pain, recount moments of tenderness and care, and describe risks they took to heal and connect with their fathers.” Through these “honest, healing conversations,” the Tunes not only help fathers and sons reckon with the often unfulfilled expectations of the past but explore the possibilities of future relationships.
‘Dear Black Dads: Wisdom for Your Journey to Fatherhood‘ – Jamal J. Myrick (Jamal J. Myrick, 2020)
There are very few guidebooks for young fathers; there are even fewer for Black fathers. In Jamal J. Myrick’s “Dear Black Dads: Wisdom for Your Journey to Fatherhood,” the scholar seeks to not only dispel common and outdated myths that Black fathers are inadequate and absent in the raising of their children but to comprehensively support current and future generations of Black dads in doing so. With firsthand perspectives and advice from real Black fathers, “this labor of love is for the Black male who’s looking for encouragement and light for one of the biggest roles in their lives.”
Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s lifestyle editor, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades of experience in fashion and entertainment, great books, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body: Words of Change series.
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