Wednesday Top Three: Do You Know How to Get to Robin Street?

1. The Beautiful Struggle, by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I profile Coates in my forthcoming book about stay-at-home dads. I interviewed him well before this memoir appeared and it’s been interesting to read about his life as he sees it from the inside. The Beautiful Struggle is spun and marketed as a tale of black fatherhood (specifically, Coates’s relationship to his own father and his extended family), and it is that. But it’s also a book about being a geeky outsider. Coates just never fits in with his working-class black family or working-class black neighborhood, instead losing himself in comic books and fantasy novels. It’s that outsider perspective that sets this vibrant book apart from others in its genre.

2. Robin Street: When did Robin Street first appear in our house? I believe it was shortly after my son Liko first saw Sesame Street, at perhaps two years old. First a book store opened on Robin Street, then a couple of restaurants. Pretty soon they were joined by an ice cream store, a movie theater, a soap store, and more, and an entire phantasmagoria emerged. Spider Man runs a newsstand there, when he’s not rescuing babies from burning buildings; the “Monster Artist” has a studio on the corner, where sculptures sing and paintings swallow their viewers, sucking them into garish Wonderlands.

3. Pressured Parents, Stressed Out Kids, by Wendy S. Grolnick and Kathy Seal: This book was recommended to me by a child psychologist and we received a review copy at Greater Good magazine, where I work. I ignored it until we started looking for San Francisco kindergartens for my son–a freaky, anxiety-inducing process that, in retrospect, told me quite a bit more about myself than the San Francisco school system. As I write, I’m half-way through. So far, mostly so good. Grolnick and Seal keep things practical and intelligent. Their perspective is very mom-centric–there is a strong underlying assumption that dads just aren’t as concerned for their child’s well-being, social standing, and future as moms. If you can look past that, I strongly recommend this book to parents who feel oppressed by our society’s accelerated rat-race mentality.