The Best Kept Secret: Single Black Fathers

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The Best Kept Secret studies the often-overlooked group of single, African American custodial fathers. While the media focuses on the increase of single mothers and the decline in marriage in the black community, Roberta Coles paints a nuanced picture of single black dads. Based on qualitative research, the author looks at the parenting experience of these fathers, who may have become single parents through nonmarital births, divorce, widowhood and adoption. The fathers, ranging in age from 20 to 76, discuss their motivations for taking custody of their children, what roles they enact as parents, what they hope for their children, how they socialize their children in a diverse society, how parenting daughters differs from sons, and what parenting has done for them personally. Coles then recommends policy changes to improve the situations for children and single parents-particularly often-unseen fathers. Filled with dynamic interviews and intriguing case studies, The Best Kept Secret shows that single black custodial fathers do exist and looks at the ways raising children has shaped their lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Interspersed throughout are compelling portraits of men raising their children and coping with all of the challenges women typically face in child rearing....Coles offers a new perspective on black male fatherhood that defies conventional wisdom on the subject.
Coles should be commended for her tenacity to interpret some black male experiences with rearing children. Recommended.
Coles should be commended for her tenacity to interpret some black male experiences with rearing children. Recommended.
William Marsiglio
Roberta Coles, by blending a case study approach and detailed personal narratives, reveals the neglected face of single African American custodial fathers committed to raising their children. Long ignored by researchers and misunderstood by agents of key social institutions, these men share powerful, intimate stories about the joys and struggles of fatherhood in a society conditioned to expect less of them.
L.A. Watts Times
I highly recommend that we all read [this] essential book by a leading scholar on the subject of Black American fathers.
Library Journal

Studies of black fatherhood have focused largely on the absence of or problems with black fathers, overlooking those fathers who, in fact, take sole care of their children. Ironically, then, absent black fathers are present everywhere, in the literature and popular consciousness, while present black fathers are effectively absent, writes Coles. Coles (social & cultural sciences, Marquette Univ.), an expert on families and race, makes a major contribution to the literature on single black custodial fathers. Her study is exploratory and descriptive, offering an examination of the meaning of fatherhood held by the 20 single black custodial fathers she interviewed. Although her findings cannot be generalized (her study does not claim to be representative), her work offers a rich picture of fatherhood embodied by the fathers she interviewed. She discusses themes such as possible differences between raising daughters and sons, getting parenting advice, and talking about racial discrimination with one's children. An important book that gets this best-kept secret out in the open.
—Karen Okamoto

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742564251
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 3/16/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Roberta L. Coles is associate professor of sociology at Marquette University.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introducing a New Concept: Black Single Custodial Fathers
Chapter 2: Choosing to Parent on Their Own
Chapter 3: Being All Things to their Children: Parenting Roles and Behavioral Goals
Chapter 4: Fathering Daughters and Sons: The Role of the Child's Gender
Chapter 5: Negotiating Racial Identity and Socialization
Chapter 6: Is Fathering Good for Fathers?
Chapter 7: Single Custodial Fathers and Institutional Policies
About the Author

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