Fathering, forgiveness and fierce love

by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix

It is the eleventh hour, that last chance time, and although Father’s Day has just passed it will still be on the minds of many as they awake. So there is a brief opportunity to deal with the subject that I have ruminated on in various forms and situations in recent months—the imperfection of father-child relationships.

While at the library, by chance, I found two powerful books  that I selected for reasons other than the subject of fatherhood. I was interested in the spunky looking little girl on the cover of one book and the somber but charming little Chinese boy on the other cover.

Who were these children?
I wanted to know how the girl overcame poverty to become one of the first black women at Yale. I wanted to know what it was like for the boy to grow up in the tumult of communist China.

Although I did learn the answers to these questions, I discovered a much larger shared truth—the way in which negative relationships with fathers can forge great ambition and great pain.

In Unafraid of the Dark, A Memoir, Rosemary L. Bray, a former editor of the New York Times Book Review tells how the U.S. welfare system and her mother’s ingenuity rescued their family from the unreliability and  violence of an alcoholic father driven to despair by racism and the limitations of his life.

A power-hungry father
In The Bitter Sea, Coming of Age in China Before Mao, by Charles N. Li, the author leads readers from the fall of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Chinese government through the terrors and deprivations of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

But what loomed much larger for Li—who viewed the growth of communism in China firsthand from early childhood—was the dangerous selfishness, neglect, and disrespect of his power-hungry father.

In time, both Bray and Li moved toward a shaky forgiveness. Bray eventually became a minister as well as a widely published journalist. Li emigrated to the U.S. and became a professor of linguistics at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Both of these beautifully written books deserve wider audiences as well as a place on high school and college reading lists.


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