Mr Gerard has coined the term patremoir (pa-tre-mwär), a "book, essay, poem, play or film built around memories of the author's father." He has written a book entitled Fathers: A Literary Anthology which is a collection of essays and poems from literary legends like Alice Munro, Franz Kafka, E.E. Cummings, Sylvia Plath and E.B. White exploring the concept of fatherhood and all its ups and downs.
Born a twin in 1953, son of a German mother and a Belgian father, Andre Gerard grew up far from Wurzburg and from Liege, among the forests and lakes of the coastal pulp and paper town of Powell River, B.C. A lover of endives and sauerkraut, lebkuchen and rice pie, he has a BSc. (74) and a BA. (76) from UBC, and a Master’s of English Literature from the University of Washington (77), and over the years has worked as broke hustler, green chain hand, postal employee, commercial fisherman, apartment manager, and tutor. His book, Fathers: A Literary Anthology is available from Amazon and IndiBound, and from more and more independent booksellers in the US and Canada every day.
Welcome, Andre, thank you for sharing with us today. What I'd like you to address today is how and why you came to compile 'Father's: A Literary Anthology'.
I often get asked where I starting compiling Fathers and how I chose the pieces I did. Each time I think about the process I come up with more possible answers. I now have so many that I am half seriously starting to entertain the idea of writing a new book, Why and How I Compiled and Wrote Fathers: A Literary Anthology.
One answer to why I started lies in my career as a tutor. When I started tutoring twenty-five years ago, I had a lot of so-called "astronaut kids," Asian teenagers whose fathers were forced to stay back in Hong Kong or Taiwan so as to support the family. The children often did not recognize the sacrifices involved, and so they were confused, depressed or angry at what they saw as parental abandonment. To help these teenagers gain perspective and to give them a chance to talk through their feelings, I started collecting essays and poems about fathers.
A second reason lies in my own experiences as a father. Like most parents, my wife and I experienced many moments of confusion and doubt about how we were raising our children. What worked with one child didn't necessarily work with another, and answers were not always obvious. Small problems sometimes loomed very large, and there were times when I beat myself up for what I felt were inadequacies on my part. Reading father essays with my students taught me that fathering and parenting have always involved doubt, confusion and mistakes. Even though I was Mr. Mom at home, I was kin to the fathers of Angela Carter, Franz Kafka, or Philip Roth, to name only a few. Reading their stories gave me perspective. The essays were as helpful to me as a father as they were to my students as children.
The seed of the anthology lay in providing perspective on fathers, and yet as I worked on the book it also grew in an entirely different direction. I found hundreds of essays and poems, and in the process of choosing the pieces the literary aspect of the writing became more and more important. I felt that some of the essays and some of the poems were changing me in profound ways, and the longer I worked the more important the transformational power of literature became to me. In Fathers, I quote Judith Ortis Cofer as saying "language is more powerful than chemistry. You are what you hear, what you read." The pieces in Fathers were chosen to help illustrate this insight. I took Cofer's words to heart--as well as Annie Dillard's mantra that "The mind fits the world and shapes it as a river fits and shapes its own banks"-- and I looked for pieces which shaped me and my students in profound and meaningful ways. In part, Fathers: A Literary Anthology is meant as a book to fit and shape the minds of all fathers and children.
During her teenage years, my daughter and I frequently locked horns in very unpleasant ways, each of us behaving more childishly than the other. On one such occasion she screamed at me, "You would make a wonderful uncle, but you are an awful father!" The genesis of Fathers also owes a lot to that back handed compliment.
Thanks, Andre for being here today. If you'd like a copy of Andre Gerard's book, (or anything else from Amazon) for your dad for Father's Day, comment with a few words about your dad (and your e-mail address please) and on Wednesday I'll be happy to send one of you a $20 gift card from amazon. Just a mini-giveaway to start the week. Good luck!