Book Reviewed by Danny R. Johnson – San Diego County News’ Cultural Critic
As the primary male role model in a girl’s life, fathers influence their daughters profoundly, from how they see themselves to what they come to expect from men and the world at large. But men often do not realize the importance of their interactions or may shy away from too close involvement because of their inexperience or conditioning. Especially as girls move into adolescence, fathers may feel distant from their daughters or awkward with the changing dynamic. Communication becomes complex and parenting issues more complicated. But this is also when daughters most need their fathers to be an even more significant presence in their lives. Dad, Daughter Dialogues – Conversations Across Generations and Cultures is a tool to bridge that gap and build a rewarding and joyful father-daughter relationship.
The book shows men how to strengthen their relationships with their daughters and explores the tremendous rewards this relationship can bring. The conversations will help dads see their role in their daughter’s life. To educate fathers and offer solutions when problems arise, Dad, Daughter Dialogues – Conversations Across Generations and Cultures then provides thoughtful insight into a father, Dr. Roy DeBerry, in a series of taped conversations with his daughter, Aisha I. DeBerry, J.D. The pages in this book cover pivotal issues today’s girls face, such as teen pressure, body image, alcohol and drugs, media culture and violence, money and responsibility, and the future, through the eyes of Aisha and Roy. In doing so, they both illuminate our daughters’ culture and show fathers how to guide their daughters toward rewarding healthy lives.
For fathers who want to be closer to their daughters can often be a challenge as they grow older while interpersonal dynamics become a bit more complex, as the book points out. And whether you’re a dad who is already dialed in or knows there is room for improvement, I want to give fathers a way to evaluate where you are as you develop strategies for stepping up their game. Based on conversations between Roy and Aisha, here are FATHER principles to assist you as you pursue your daughter’s heart, six things she needs from you, with some action points for each one:
Family First: Know your family history and struggles
“They have laughed to shield their crying, then shuffled through their dreams and stepped n’ fetched a country to write the blues with screams. I understand their meaning. It could and did derive from living on the edge of death. They kept my race alive.” Dr. Maya Angelou [Song for the Old Ones-1975]
In Chapter 1 of Dad, Daughter Dialogues – Conversations Across Generations and Cultures, Roy and Aisha are engaged in a conversation with Roy’s brother, Will, known affectionately as Uncle Will. The two brothers shared with Aisha the struggles her grandmother and grandfather endured in raising eleven children in segregated Jim Crow Mississippi and Tennessee from the 1930s to the 1960s. It is important to note that education was pivotal for the success of most African American children in the south. As Uncle Will stressed: “…There was always an emphasis on education in our family, although my mom and dad did not have a former education beyond high school.”
The lesson from these conversations is the importance of knowing who you are and where you came from. Aisha learned that she came from generations of formerly enslaved people who managed to survive and raise families and later became educators, attorneys, ministers, military personnel, and, most importantly, landowners.
Aisha’s father and mother, Rubye, raised her to connect with her family roots and be proud of the sacrifices and accomplishments her ancestors brought to the DeBerry family.
Affirm your daughter’s authenticity and worth
“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I am not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size, but when I tell them, they think I am telling lies. I say it is in the reach of my arms, the span of my hips, the stride of my step, the curl of my lips. I am a woman phenomenally. Phenomenally woman, that’s me.”
Dr. Maya Angelou [Phenomenal Woman -1978]
In a telephone conversation with Roy and Aisha, I was struck by his passion and commitment to ensuring that Aisha succeeds in life: “I told Aisha to never, ever, ever, settle for second best. Do not ever let anyone tell you that you are not worthy. You are smart, talented, kind, beautiful, and capable of doing anything you want. You should chase after the best of everything and expect it to be yours because you are worth everything good,” Roy proudly stated.
Fathers need to hone this positive reinforcement in their daughters until it becomes clear that success is inevitable. An old saying says, “It is better to take a risk now than always to live in fear.” The book cited examples when Aisha doubted herself and was unsure if she would make it – “But dad was right there giving me that extra push and encouragement I so desperately needed,” she confessed.
Talk and share your soul
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
Dr. Maya Angelou [Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now-1993]
When you read this book, you are privy to a father and a daughter talking and effectively communicating. Roy and Aisha are showing us that to be an effective communicator, the two must be honest and free to express themselves. Roy said it best when he recorded this statement: “In our case, and I’ve said it a long time…the assumption you make about your dad, the assumption you make about your daughter, and unless people start to communicate, it is that…assumption.”
Anyone can talk, but it takes skills to be an effective communicator. Fathers throughout the ages, generations, and cultures can tell you the mistakes they made trying to communicate with their daughters. But what is so interesting about Roy’s approach is that he gives Aisha space to conclude what she wants to do with her life.
A case in point in Chapter 2, Aisha shares a story of her experience coming into embracing her African name Aisha Isoke DeBerry: “When I was in elementary, middle and high school, I was the only one with that name…and I remember there would be roll call and I would brace myself because I knew the teacher would mispronounce my name.”
The fact that she had anxieties about the African name her parents gave her went unnoticed by her parents. It was not until Aisha began having a frank conversation with Roy that he became aware of how much stress she went through. The best part of this story is that Aisha was able to move on and grow out of her anxieties and embrace the unique phenomenal woman she is.
Humor opens the door to healing
This book is chock full of humor. When you read the adventures Roy and Aisha embark upon, you cannot help but laugh. Laughter with your daughter makes you feel good. And this positive feeling remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through demanding situations, disappointments, and loss with your daughter.
As we learn from the journey of Roy and Aisha, more than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh or a smile can go a long way toward making you feel better. And Aisha can tell you laughter is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and prepares you to smile and join in the fun.
Engage and connect with your daughter
Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem: “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can transform one million realities.”
[The Heart of a Woman-1981]
The world reminds us of the problems between fathers and daughters that can damage a young girl’s identity, convince her she is unlovable or without worth, and send her into unhealthy adult relationships. Dad, Daughter Dialogues – Conversations Across Generations and Cultures chronicles in-depth stories and challenges Roy and Aisha encountered with a broad spectrum of issues. The book is a testament to a father who succeeded in making sure his daughter flourished in her professional and personal life despite the lack of father’s shortcomings. While the legacy of pain that Roy may have kept to himself, Aisha helped him conquer it with a renewed purpose.
Reinforce the love you have for your daughter
The greatest gift a father can give his daughter is unselfish and unconditional love and devotion. This is what Roy did, and he went a step further, and he taught Aisha the importance of having a spiritual foundation. Throughout this book, Aisha’s father, mother, and relatives taught her to trust God and her instincts. Just as he was taught by example by his parents and their parents, Roy and his siblings learned to talk to God daily, put their faith in Him alone, and trust Him with all things. Aisha has learned from her father that he will never fail her and that her God will give her the instincts and discernment she will need to make hard choices and face hard things in this life.
Here, on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out, and into your sister’s eyes, and your brother’s face, your country, and say, very simply, with hope—
Good Morning. Dr. Maya Angelou [On the Pulse of Morning-1993]
Dad, Daughter Dialogues – Conversations Across Generations and Cultures
By Aisha I. DeBerry, J.D. and Roy DeBerry, Ph.D.
Publication Date: August 12, 2022
Format: Paperback/Amazon Kindle/Hardcover
Publisher: Westbridge Solutions
Where to Purchase: Book | Aisha I. DeBerry (aishadeberry.com)