Two great books at opposite ends of the literature spectrum offer provoking thoughts on fatherhood, “Big Russ & Me,” a 2004 New York Times Best Seller by my favorite TV journalist, the late Tim Russert of “Meet the Press,” and “Enrique’s Journey,” a 2008 novel based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning Los Angeles Times series by Sonia Nazario.
These books illustrate the importance of fatherhood, with sharp contrasts. “Big Russ & Me” is a heart-warming tribute to a father who never complained as he worked two jobs as a sanitation worker and newspaper truck driver to support his family in the 1950s, teaching his son about character and discipline.
In “Enrique’s Journey,” Nazario writes about a notorious Latin gang, MS-13, pointing out that most of these ruthless gangsters never had fathers. Consequently, they feel abandoned by their mothers, too, who come to the U.S. from Honduras to make a better living, planning to send for them later. That rarely happens.
With many single mothers today and married people now a minority, we’re a generation of absent, badly-needed fatherhood. I’ve always had my dad. My daughter, Laura, never has.
As Father’s Day approaches, these are somber but realistic thoughts which make me think of the next generation and what we can do to help change our culture of fading fatherhood.