"As He Lay Dying": Memoirs of Fathers

June 9, 2022 | Bill V.

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As he lay dying in hospital, my father's arm moved back and forth and he quietly moaned. His eyes were closed and he was unconscious with a brain bleed. I leaned down and whispered in his ear how much I loved and respected him and I would protect him. And I did until he died. When we dressed him for the burial I shined the black leather shoes I had given him years earlier, and my tears softened the shoe polish, which had hardened. 

I thought it would be timely at Father's Day to look at memoirs of fathers.


Swing low  a life

Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews

"After her father took his own life in 1998, Miriam Toews decided to face her confusion and pain straight on. In writing her father’s memoir, she was motivated by two primary goals: For her own sake, she needed to understand, or at least accept, her father’s final decision. For her father’s sake, she needed to honour him, to elucidate his life and to demonstrate its worth."


For Joshua  An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son

For Joshua : An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son by Richard Wagamese

"Celebrated Ojibway author Richard Wagamese shares the traditions and teachings of his people, entwining them with an account of his own life-long struggle for self-knowledge and self-respect."  See also The Pale-Faced Lie : A True Story.


The Theft of Memory Losing My Father  One Day at a Time

The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time by Jonathan Kozol

"House author Jonathan Kozol's deeply personal biography of his father, a brilliant neurologist who suffered from Alzheimer's."


Patrimony A Memoir

Patrimony by Philip Roth

"Roth watches as his eighty-six-year-old father--famous for his vigor, charm, and his repertoire of Newark recollections--battles with the brain tumor that will kill him."


I Am My Father's Son A Memoir of Love and Forgiveness

I Am My Father's Son: A Memoir of Love and Forgiveness by Dan Hill

"In this deeply moving memoir, one of Canada's most respected singer-songwriters traces his difficult, often tumultuous relationship with his father."  See also Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.


The Beautiful Struggle A Father  Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates

"Tells the story of their divergent paths through a turbulent decade and their father's steadfast--if sometimes eccentric--schemes to keep them from failing. Ta-Nehisi Coates combines a beautifully rendered evocation of the terrors and wonders of growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s--the age of crack, when murder rates hit historic highs, but also an era when the black community improvised the resources with which to save itself--with a humorous and affectionate portrayal of a family led by a maverick patriarch."

See also My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist's Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole


Not My Father's Son

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

"In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career."

See also The Death of My Father the Pope: A Memoir


All Out A Father and Son Confront the Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men

All Out: A Father and Son Confront the Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men by Kevin Newman and Alex Newman

"Anchorman Kevin Newman and his grown son, Alex. Confessional and provocative, their memoir is also a touching meditation on ambition, absence and family that will resonate with every parent and child who've ever struggled to connect and understand each other. LGBT themes are handled sensitively and considerately."


Hiding Out A Memoir of Drugs  Deception  and Double Lives

Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives by Tina Alexis Allen

"When Tina was eighteen her father discovered the truth about her sexuality. Instead of dragging her to the family priest and lecturing her with tearful sermons about sin and damnation, her father shocked her with his honest response. He, too, was gay."


Lost & Found

Lost & Found by Kathryn Schulz

"Tells the story of losing her father and finding the love of her life in this profound meditation on grief and joy."


The Apology

The Apology by Eve Ensler

"The Apology, written by Eve from her father's point of view in the words she longed to hear attempts to transform the abuse she suffered, with unflinching truthfulness, compassion, and an expansive vision for the future. Through The Apology Eve has set out to provide a new way for herself and a possible road for others, so that survivors of abuse may finally imagine how to be free."


Hollywood Park a memoir

Hollywood Park: A Memoir by Mikel Jollett

"HOLLYWOOD PARK is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country's most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer."


Inheritance A Memoir of Genealogy  Paternity  and Love

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

"In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA, Dani Shapiro received the astonishing news that her beloved deceased father was not her biological father."


Rest in peace Dad (Bog da go prosti).

Dad and Me in matching hats
Bill V. and his Dad. Photo by author.