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My Seven Black Fathers: The Men Who Made Me Whole

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A call to action and a narrative that runs counter to every racist stereotype that thwarts the lives of men of color today. My Seven Black Fathers is a memoir like few others--both the story of Yemi, a boy with an African name who feels awkward and alone as he is shunted from school to school, and a powerful consideration of the role of race, masculinity, education, and fam A call to action and a narrative that runs counter to every racist stereotype that thwarts the lives of men of color today. My Seven Black Fathers is a memoir like few others--both the story of Yemi, a boy with an African name who feels awkward and alone as he is shunted from school to school, and a powerful consideration of the role of race, masculinity, education, and family in the lives of Black boys in the United States today. Inspired by Will Jawando's experience as a civil rights and education policy attorney, as well as by his involvement in My Brother's Keeper, President Barack Obama's hugely effective mentorship program for young men of color, this book explores the bonds that developed between the author and the host of father figures who formed him: Mr. Williams, the math teacher who taught him how to tie his first tie; Joseph, the stepfather who altered his understanding of family; Jay Fletcher, the openly gay colleague of his mother's who introduced him to the theater; Mr. Holmes, the high school chorus director who taught him to use his voice and saw him through a crushing disappointment; and Deen Sanwoola, who helped him bridge the gap between his American upbringing and his Nigerian heritage--eventually leading to a reconciliation with his biological father. Written out of a deep appreciation of the Black male experience, My Seven Black Fathers is an essential and affirmative new take on the meaning of race and family in America.


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A call to action and a narrative that runs counter to every racist stereotype that thwarts the lives of men of color today. My Seven Black Fathers is a memoir like few others--both the story of Yemi, a boy with an African name who feels awkward and alone as he is shunted from school to school, and a powerful consideration of the role of race, masculinity, education, and fam A call to action and a narrative that runs counter to every racist stereotype that thwarts the lives of men of color today. My Seven Black Fathers is a memoir like few others--both the story of Yemi, a boy with an African name who feels awkward and alone as he is shunted from school to school, and a powerful consideration of the role of race, masculinity, education, and family in the lives of Black boys in the United States today. Inspired by Will Jawando's experience as a civil rights and education policy attorney, as well as by his involvement in My Brother's Keeper, President Barack Obama's hugely effective mentorship program for young men of color, this book explores the bonds that developed between the author and the host of father figures who formed him: Mr. Williams, the math teacher who taught him how to tie his first tie; Joseph, the stepfather who altered his understanding of family; Jay Fletcher, the openly gay colleague of his mother's who introduced him to the theater; Mr. Holmes, the high school chorus director who taught him to use his voice and saw him through a crushing disappointment; and Deen Sanwoola, who helped him bridge the gap between his American upbringing and his Nigerian heritage--eventually leading to a reconciliation with his biological father. Written out of a deep appreciation of the Black male experience, My Seven Black Fathers is an essential and affirmative new take on the meaning of race and family in America.

30 review for My Seven Black Fathers: The Men Who Made Me Whole

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hill

    Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on May 3rd, 2022. Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando’s memoir of growing up with an absent Black Nigerian father and a white mother is well-written, measured and thoughtful, with constant fresh insights along the way. I loved the overall theme of the book — rather than considering himself a boy raised without a father, he considers him Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on May 3rd, 2022. Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando’s memoir of growing up with an absent Black Nigerian father and a white mother is well-written, measured and thoughtful, with constant fresh insights along the way. I loved the overall theme of the book — rather than considering himself a boy raised without a father, he considers himself as having seven fathers — Black men who took the time to teach him how to be a man by mentoring him, serving as role models, and generally giving him the love, attention, and advice he needed. Eventually, this even led to a loving reconciliation with his biological father. He honestly made me see mentoring in a new light — how mentoring can literally help someone by exposing them to aspects of life that many of us take for granted. How else can a fatherless boy learn to be a man (or a motherless girl learn to be a woman, or an immigrant learn how to be a citizen of a new country, etc.). I’ve read a number of books recently about children growing up in some of the more gang ridden areas of the country, with very few fathers present. Why wouldn’t they grow up modeling on the adult men available to them — gang members? Jawando speaks intelligently about issues — not in slogans — and while racism is a factor in the story, it is just one factor of his experience, not the lens through which the whole story is filtered. He did occasionally make unsubstantiated generalizations based on his interpretation of personal experiences, but not very often, and more often referenced studies showing the broader sociological impact of various things he personally saw or experienced on a personal scale. It would be hard not to immediately think of Obama’s first book — Dreams from My Father — while reading this. There are many parallels between them (both had African fathers, white mothers from Kansas, and wives named Michel(l)e and in fact, Obama is one of Jawando’s “fathers” based on the time Jawando worked on his staff. Interesting, inspiring, accessible, and with real depth — definitely worth reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    J Earl

    My Seven Black Fathers by Will Jawando succeeds on so many levels, both personal and societal. Structuring his memoir around seven pivotal father figures in his life helps make this as much social commentary as memoir. That said, neither is neglected. You become invested in his personal journey just as much as you, one hopes, become invested in wanting to make social change. One of the things that struck me early in the book was Jawando's ability to point out what he might disagree with about a f My Seven Black Fathers by Will Jawando succeeds on so many levels, both personal and societal. Structuring his memoir around seven pivotal father figures in his life helps make this as much social commentary as memoir. That said, neither is neglected. You become invested in his personal journey just as much as you, one hopes, become invested in wanting to make social change. One of the things that struck me early in the book was Jawando's ability to point out what he might disagree with about a figure without judging that person without context. The historical moment as well as one's upbringing is what makes any of us who we are, and we are presented with these men as both products of their times as well as agents for change, both in Jawanda's personal life and society as a whole. While I think many readers will take away the bigger message, the value of mentoring and community, I hope they don't lose sight of the memoir itself. Having these father figures is just part of the equation. What Jawando does with what he learns and observes is just as big a part, and this book takes us through the ups and downs of his life. The willingness to use his life story to help promote a better world speaks to the type of man he has become. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in either the biography/memoir genre itself or making iterative change in the world. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Cleaves

    My Seven Black Fathers tenderly addresses the power of mentors and extended family members have to heal the pain of feeling unmoored and guiding a floundering youth to productive and empathetic adulthood. It unflinchingly addresses the challenges and emotional pain of feeling ‘other’ and learning to integrate productively while growing up, standing up for yourself and your beliefs in the face of opposition, and overcoming obstacles. It is a paean of praise for men who stand up and give of themse My Seven Black Fathers tenderly addresses the power of mentors and extended family members have to heal the pain of feeling unmoored and guiding a floundering youth to productive and empathetic adulthood. It unflinchingly addresses the challenges and emotional pain of feeling ‘other’ and learning to integrate productively while growing up, standing up for yourself and your beliefs in the face of opposition, and overcoming obstacles. It is a paean of praise for men who stand up and give of themselves to unrelated youth for no better reason than that they are present and able to do so. Inspirational.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carol Macarthur

    This compilation of tributes to men in Jawando's life winds its way back to his, often absent, biological father, offering a poignant resolution and reunion. Jawando writes that the effects this diverse group of men had upon his own manhood varied in length of time, not always being more than a school year. His lyrical prose sparkles with humor, vivid description, and, sometimes, pain. We lucky readers will, without doubt, be hearing more from Will Jawando! This compilation of tributes to men in Jawando's life winds its way back to his, often absent, biological father, offering a poignant resolution and reunion. Jawando writes that the effects this diverse group of men had upon his own manhood varied in length of time, not always being more than a school year. His lyrical prose sparkles with humor, vivid description, and, sometimes, pain. We lucky readers will, without doubt, be hearing more from Will Jawando!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mr Roberts

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  6. 4 out of 5

    Arlena

    Title: My Seven Black Fathers Author: Will Jawando Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: Five Review: "My Seven Black Fathers" by Will Jawando My Assessment: 'My Seven Black Fathers' was wonderfully written by 'author, civil rights attorney, and Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando.' We find how these black men stepped up to the plate and were there for Will when his Nigerian biological father had failed in being around. Will had a caucasian mother from Kansas and Title: My Seven Black Fathers Author: Will Jawando Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: Five Review: "My Seven Black Fathers" by Will Jawando My Assessment: 'My Seven Black Fathers' was wonderfully written by 'author, civil rights attorney, and Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando.' We find how these black men stepped up to the plate and were there for Will when his Nigerian biological father had failed in being around. Will had a caucasian mother from Kansas and a Nigerian father. It was an excellent ride as this group of men stepped up from a 'stepfather, a coach, a gay man, a pastor, a Nigerian entrepreneur, and the former President Barack Obama'...all of these men were there for Will when he needed someone. And by the end, it seems like his father, who had been so isolated from his American struggle, finally came around. Pick up this read that was so well-written where you will get some humor, good descriptions, and even some agony in what was going on at that time... in the life of Wiliam Opeyemi Taofik Alabi Jawando. Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for the ARC read and my leaving my opinion of the read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Bernard

    My Seven Black Fathers is a special memoir written with a focus on Yemi/ Will's life growing up and the impact that the black men in his life had on him. Will focuses on the role of race, masculinity, education, and family in the lives of Black boys in the United States today. The mentors in his life confront each one of these in their own way to help him grow and become the husband, father and activist that he is today. His story is a deeply personal one and you can feel the deep appreciation o My Seven Black Fathers is a special memoir written with a focus on Yemi/ Will's life growing up and the impact that the black men in his life had on him. Will focuses on the role of race, masculinity, education, and family in the lives of Black boys in the United States today. The mentors in his life confront each one of these in their own way to help him grow and become the husband, father and activist that he is today. His story is a deeply personal one and you can feel the deep appreciation of the Black male experience coming through the memoir. It is an important look at what it means to find yourself and the people that help you along the way. I loved reading this and seeing the difference in other people's lives. It is an interesting, introspective look at growing up and how important mentors are in a young person's life. Final thoughts, this memoir was an honest look at the life of Will Jawando and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well-written and introspective memoir. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Martha Kuder

    Wayne-father taught me everything not to do-paraphrase from page 119. I resolved to not do things my mother did with my own children, so I related to this heavily. Coach Lonergon’s mistaking being loathed for being powerful! The bully’s of this time period would agree! On Barack Obama complimenting and showing appreciation publicly and openly like a thoughtful parent-man! do I miss classy action like this by politicians! On the same subject-the child psychologist saying that if you really want to e Wayne-father taught me everything not to do-paraphrase from page 119. I resolved to not do things my mother did with my own children, so I related to this heavily. Coach Lonergon’s mistaking being loathed for being powerful! The bully’s of this time period would agree! On Barack Obama complimenting and showing appreciation publicly and openly like a thoughtful parent-man! do I miss classy action like this by politicians! On the same subject-the child psychologist saying that if you really want to encourage a child to speak highly of them when they can overhear you-wonderful advice! Lastly, “watching someone you love die is like watching a rising tide slowly pull them into a vast ocean. Every wave that comes in slowly Carrie’s them farther away from you and you never know which one will take them away for good.” Regardless of your political view this book will open your heart to the value of parents.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Homerun2

    Moving and articulate description of the seven black men who most influenced the author. He is matter of fact about the ever-present racism which also shaped his coming of age, which highlights the waste and insanity of bigotry. He is particularly empathetic in talking about his birth father, a Nigerian who left a successful family to seek a college degree and life in the U.S. Ultimately his father was disappointed by limited opportunity. Jawando communicates the pain of his absentee relationship Moving and articulate description of the seven black men who most influenced the author. He is matter of fact about the ever-present racism which also shaped his coming of age, which highlights the waste and insanity of bigotry. He is particularly empathetic in talking about his birth father, a Nigerian who left a successful family to seek a college degree and life in the U.S. Ultimately his father was disappointed by limited opportunity. Jawando communicates the pain of his absentee relationship with his father with a poignantly described understanding of the heartaches of his father's life. The parallels between his life as the son of a Black African father and White Midwestern mother and Barack Obama's is particularly interesting. The fact that he has chosen a political career is encouraging, for he is a good man, and a thoughful one. Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    Thank you to NetGalley for an early copy to review. When I saw the cover on the NetGalley website, I immediately requested since Will Jawando is on my county’s council. It was wonderful to read about his family’s background and learn about the 7 Black men who had such an influence on his life, along with others. The local references to places I know were nice to read. Jawando has dealt with a lot despite growing up in one of the most diverse counties in the country. I look forward to more from h Thank you to NetGalley for an early copy to review. When I saw the cover on the NetGalley website, I immediately requested since Will Jawando is on my county’s council. It was wonderful to read about his family’s background and learn about the 7 Black men who had such an influence on his life, along with others. The local references to places I know were nice to read. Jawando has dealt with a lot despite growing up in one of the most diverse counties in the country. I look forward to more from him in his future political career.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Owens

    Poorly written, narcissistic and misses the mark. The author, who wrote a book while being paid as a council member in Montgomery county maryland, excuses his own fathers departure and highlights 7 mentors overtime. Of course one being the president of the United States that had little interaction with Jawando. Missing the point of, it takes a village, because the lost opportunity was to discuss patriarchy in African American homes. The book would be readable if Jawando simply spoke of his abilit Poorly written, narcissistic and misses the mark. The author, who wrote a book while being paid as a council member in Montgomery county maryland, excuses his own fathers departure and highlights 7 mentors overtime. Of course one being the president of the United States that had little interaction with Jawando. Missing the point of, it takes a village, because the lost opportunity was to discuss patriarchy in African American homes. The book would be readable if Jawando simply spoke of his ability being a good father now.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Reading this book is like getting lost in a hug. Will Jawando pulled me into his childhood, I felt like I was growing up with him and the fathers who shaped his sense of self and sense of the world. Thank you NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an early chance at reading for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

    Competently written homage to elder Black men who mentor young Black men. Well told but not engaging.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    Not that interesting. A boy with a tough childhood. Will appeal to the woke, with lots of sympathy value

  15. 5 out of 5

    Suzette

    This is a poignant story of finding oneself. The author explains how how he was able to find his identity as a black man in today’s America. He talks about the the people and incidents that have had both good and bad influences on his life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michele Anderson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robin Loves Reading

  19. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Park

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  21. 4 out of 5

    Becky

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark Chimel

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Yerger

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leah Huey

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rivka

  28. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

  29. 5 out of 5

    Juan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lyn McNee

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