Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl?: The Impact of Fatherlessness on Black Women

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9780345422460: Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl?: The Impact of Fatherlessness on Black Women

What happens to a little girl who grows up without a father? Can she ever feel truly loved and fully alive? Does she ever heal—or is she doomed to live a wounded, fragmented life and to pass her wounds down to her own children? Fatherlessness afflicts nearly half the households in America, and it has reached epidemic proportions in the African-American community, with especially devastating consequences for black women. In this powerful, searingly intimate book, accomplished journalist, poet, and fiction writer Jonetta Rose Barras breaks the code of silence and gives voice to the experiences of America's fatherless women—starting with herself.

"We are legions—a choir of wounded—listen to the dirge we sing," writes Barras of the millions of black women like her who lost, either through abandonment, rejection, poverty, or death, the men who gave them life. A father is the first man in a girl's life—the first man to look in her eyes, protect her, care for her, love her unconditionally. Fathers fashion their daughters as expertly and as powerfully as they do their sons. When a girl loses this man, she grows up with an ache that nothing else can soothe. Psychologists have found that fatherless daughters are far more likely to suffer from debilitating rage, depression, abuse, and addictions; they tend to seek "sexual healing" through promiscuity or anti-intimate behavior and end up fearing or despising the men whose love they crave.

Barras knows from personal experience the traps and the fury of being a black fatherless daughter, and she makes her own life story the heart and soul of her book, alternating chapters of spellbinding memoir with the stories she has gathered from women all over the country.

Passionate and shockingly frank, Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl is the first book to explore the plight of America's fatherless daughters from the unique perspective of the African-American community. Like Hope Edelman's New York Times bestseller Motherless Daughters, this brilliant volume gives all fatherless daughters the knowledge that they are not alone and the courage to overcome the hidden pain they have suffered for so long.

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Review:

Passionate and provocative, Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl? explores the impact of fatherlessness on black women from a thoughtful and highly personal perspective. A woman who has herself "lost" three fathers, Jonetta Rose Barras interweaves her own experience of the "fatherless woman syndrome" with those of other fatherless black women, observations by psychologists and sociologists, and research findings. Barras concludes that factors such as the shift to a service economy, the "gender war of the 1970s through the 1990s," and affirmative action and quota policies caused black men to be "kicked to the curbside." Consequently, many black men began to perceive themselves as superfluous to their families, and by 1996, 60 percent of all black children were living in fatherless homes.

While some attention has been given to the impact of fatherlessness upon sons, Barras notes that very little has been paid to the effect on daughters. She powerfully shows the seriousness of this oversight, arguing that fatherless daughters often believe themselves unworthy and unlovable; strongly fear abandonment, rejection, and commitment; possess strong aversions to intimacy or, conversely, act promiscuously; overcompensate in work and relationships or oversaturate with food, alcohol, sex, or drugs; and experience extreme anger, rage, and/or depression. Barras offers suggestions to begin the healing process (on several fronts, for she is concerned too with the related issues of daughterless fathers and broken maternal trust). Perhaps one of the most important means of healing (both individually and societally) is the conversation Barras opens with this significant work. --Stephanie Wickersham

About the Author:


Jonetta Rose Barras is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Last of the Black Emperors: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in the New Age of Black Leaders. She is also a columnist for the Washington Times and former associate editor of the Washington City Paper. Her writings have also appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, American Visions, The New Republic, and The New Democrat. She has appeared as a commentator for CNN, C-SPAN, and PBS and is widely considered one of the freshest female voices speaking for the African-American community.

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