Today, 200,000 daughters around the world will be born. Some will never know their fathers. Others will wish they didn’t. And still others will grow to treasure the men who helped nurture them into womanhood.
At 52, author Kevin Renner slowly came to realize that he wasn’t the father he’d hoped for his two daughters, then nine and thirteen. After graduate school and a seemingly successful management career, his life began to unravel. His professional life was an excruciating mix of corporate politics amidst economic instability. His marriage was strained. How, he asked himself, must his presence within his family be shaping his daughters?
What did he have left to teach them, he wondered? Was it too late? Was he doing OK, or simply deluding himself? What did they need from him that they weren’t getting, and might long for in adulthood? And what does great fathering of daughters look like, anyway?
Faced with these questions, the author spent a year interviewing 50 women from around the world to understand how men unknowingly set their daughters’ lives on trajectories that soar, sink, or drift.
The women were young and old, growing up during The Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, Watergate, and into the 1990s. They were rich and poor, successful and marginalized—among them a state supreme court justice, a doctor, a psychotherapist, professional athletes, and former executives, as well as a sex worker, former drug addicts, the unemployed, and a woman who had been homeless. They were straight, lesbian, and transgender. They were from Iran, Liberia, China, the U.S., Mexico, Germany, Korea, Saudi Arabia, India, and places in between.
Among them was Katie, whose father had been abusing her from an early age. She had lived in a fog of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, and had given up her children. She hit rock-bottom after working as a stripper, churning through five marriages, and attempting suicide three times.
Blanca, on the other hand, drew a long straw in her father. He brought his family from Mexico to the U.S. to educate his daughters while he worked as a field laborer and landscaper. Blanca honored his sacrifice by completing a law degree at Santa Clara University and an MBA at Berkeley. She now works as honorary U.S. consul to Mexico.
In Search of Fatherhood includes two-dozen other stories, among them:
* Wendy, who loved her single father so dearly she proposed to him at age four.
* Kim, who is transgender and spent her childhood imprisoned in a boy’s body, became best friends with her father in adulthood.
* Kara, a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, whose father was killed by a drunk driver a week before she turned four.
* Courtney, whose father sexually abused her until age 12, when she turned his German Luger on him.
* Luna, a former drug addict, who earns her living as a sex worker while raising a daughter and hoping for a better life.
Renner speaks to audiences and blogs on the lessons he’s learned for fathers and daughters at Kevin-renner.com. In Search of Fatherhood has been featured on dozens of nationally syndicated and major market programs around the country, including NPR, CBS, FOX, NBC and ABC Television and radio affiliates, as well as The Oprah Winfrey Radio Network, WGN Chicago, and Charter Local Edition / CNN Headline News.