Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

Overview


Across the political spectrum, unwed fatherhood is denounced as one of the leading social problems of today. Doing the Best I Can is a strikingly rich, paradigm-shifting look at fatherhood among inner-city men often dismissed as “deadbeat dads.” Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson examine how couples in challenging straits come together and get pregnant so quickly—without planning. The authors chronicle the high hopes for forging lasting family bonds that pregnancy inspires and pinpoint the fatal flaws that often...
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Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

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Overview


Across the political spectrum, unwed fatherhood is denounced as one of the leading social problems of today. Doing the Best I Can is a strikingly rich, paradigm-shifting look at fatherhood among inner-city men often dismissed as “deadbeat dads.” Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson examine how couples in challenging straits come together and get pregnant so quickly—without planning. The authors chronicle the high hopes for forging lasting family bonds that pregnancy inspires and pinpoint the fatal flaws that often lead to the demise of the couple’s romance. They offer keen insight into a radical redefinition of family life, where ties between parents are peripheral and the father-child bond is central.

Drawing on years of fieldwork, Doing the Best I Can shows how mammoth economic and cultural changes have transformed the meaning of fatherhood among the urban poor. Intimate interviews with more than one hundred fathers make real the significant obstacles that low-income men face at every step in the familial process: from the difficulties of romantic relationships to decision-making dilemmas at conception, the often celebratory moment of birth, the hardships that accompany the early years of the child’s life, and beyond.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Social commentators as diverse as Bill Cosby, Louis Farrakhan, and Gloria Steinem have lamented the absence of fathers in the lives of inner-city children. In contrast, Edin (public policy & management; Promises I Can Keep) and Nelson (social policy; Every Time I Feel the Spirit), both at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, present a study of unwed urban fathers, without nostalgia, judgment, or irony. Based on 110 interviews conducted in Camden, NJ, and Philadelphia, the book offers an unflinching examination of how these men view children, families, romantic relationships, and the world around them. While the authors highlight patterns, set the interviews against trends, and contrast their subjects with two-dimensional portraits in the media, there is limited explanation or theorizing. Foremost, this is a chronicle of perspectives from "disadvantaged fathers living in a struggling rustbelt metropolis at the turn of the twenty-first century." VERDICT This thoroughly researched and well-crafted study analyzes how these men view their lives, actions, and family bonds. Similar to William Julius Wilson's When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, now over ten years old, it will appeal to readers interested in focused surveys of urban life. Those who prefer an approach that's long on theory or policy solutions may be disappointed.—Ahmer Qadeer, Brooklyn
The Washington Post/WonkBlog - Harold Pollack

"An essential book."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520274068
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 294
  • Sales rank: 406,735
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Kathryn Edin is Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Kennedy School of Government and a Faculty Affiliate with the Sociology Department at Harvard University. She is the coauthor of Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage and Making Ends Meet: How Low Income Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low Wage Work.
Timothy Nelson is Lecturer in Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of Every Time I Feel the Spirit: Religious Experience and Ritual in an African American Church.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments

Introduction
1. One Thing Leads to Another
2. Thank You, Jesus
3. The Stupid Shit
4. Ward Cleaver
5. Sesame Street Mornings
6. Fight or Flight
7. Try, Try Again
8. The New Package Deal

Appendix
Notes
References
Index

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