January 12, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

Geoffrey PhilpAnyone who has read Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father understands the ache of a fatherless boy to discover the missing part of his life, the lost biological and psychological part of the equation that will help him to figure out what part he inherited and what makes him an individual. The stories in Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories are about boys like these from Jamaica, the Caribbean, and Miami.
In many ways, Who's Your Daddy is an expansion of the father-son dialogues in my work that began with Benjamin, my son and continued with Uncle Obadiah and the Alien where I explored the relationships between surrogate fathers and "adopted" sons. Who's Your Daddy?, however, asks other questions: What's it like to grow up in Jamaica and attend an all boys school with the secret that you are gay? The collection also continues my exploration of Caribbean magical realism in "The Day Jesus Christ Came to Mount Airy," "Bobby Bijani and the Rolling Calf" and "Sister Faye and the Dreadlocked Vampire," where a would-be surrogate is exposed and a young man learns to trust his own intuition.
It is this period that Jung defined as individuation that fascinates me. For not every boy will be as lucky as Obama to have a principled, idealistic father, a supportive step-father, doting mother and grandparents. The rest of us will have to tough it out on our own.
And in African-American and Caribbean cultures where our stories are denigrated and values such as honesty, independence, straight talk have been corrupted by colonialism and racism, many young men slip into self-hating behaviors as Obama states in Dreams: "Being black meant only the knowledge of your own powerlessness, of your own defeat" (85). This is similar to the kind of powerlessness that Ralph Singh describes in VS Naipaul's The Mimic Men.
Fear and powerlessness are rarely the basis for a healthy individual or community. Successful individuals, families, and communities have always devised methods to transmit sound values from fathers to sons, mothers to daughters, parents to children, elders to children or surrogates step into the gap like in Master Harold...and the Boys
And boys have always had a more difficult transition as Asante explains in Dreams: "It's worst for the boys. At least the girls have older women to talk to, the example of motherhood. But the boys have nothing. Half of them don't even know their own fathers. There's nobody to guide them through the process of becoming a man.. to explain to them the meaning of manhood And that's a recipe for disaster" (258).
Many of the boys in Who's Your Daddy? are similar to the young men we see everyday who are crying out for fathers or father figures in their lives and they seek it any way that they can from gang banging to adopting the names, the language and the codes of conduct from The Godfather.
They want to be individuals--they want to be men, but they don't know how. Until then, they remain rutting, testosterone-driven, half socialized human beings. And you don't have to read Lord of the Flies to discern this. Just listen to dancehall or hip-hop.
For the sad truth is that no mother can teach a fatherless boy how to behave around other men and boys because at the most basic level boys and men communicate differently when they are by themselves. A boy learns to be a man either by attaching himself to an older, more powerful male or by keeping quiet--if he knows what's good for him. So he slips into silence--the kind of intergenerational silence, especially between black men and their son, that Obama says in Dreams has "betrayed us" (429)
I hope Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories will break that silence by telling the stories of these fatherless boys and men. I hope some of these ideas were translated into the stories. I don't know. For my first impulse when I write stories is never to preach or teach. Rather, it has always been, "Let me tell you a story…."
Please follow this link to pre-order your copy of Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories at Amazon:


Jdid said...

wicked! will definetly check for it.

but is how come ya no offer signed copies star? :-)

Geoffrey Philp said...

JDID, as soon as we get the Paypal account set up & the book is published, I'll be offering the signed copies.

Thanks for looking out for me!

Jdid said...