A counterculture perspective on raising children in the real world
By Geoff Plant
“Rad Dad” is a submissions-based zine edited by father and veteran zinester Tomas Moniz. Its essays on parenting, radicalism and society stand in nicely for the mountain of traditional parenting books available at any bookstore. An anthology was published earlier this year combining the best of “Rad Dad”—which has been around for six years—and selections from Jeremy Adam Smith’s Daddy Dialectic blog. Moniz will be reading from Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood on Sunday, Dec. 18, at Winning Coffee. He'll be joined by other speakers, including local author Jessica Mills (My Mother Wears Combat Boots: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us). The Alibi talked to Moniz at his home in Berkeley, where he had just returned from his day job teaching literature and creative writing at Berkeley City College.
How did “Rad Dad” start?
I was dealing with trying to find some help and guidance when my son was in his young teens—dealing with drug use, pornography—and when I was really starting to look for guidance out in the world there wasn't a lot out there that was accessible from any kind of radical perspective, nor was there anything about fathering that really felt comfortable to me. Generally, it was about control or discipline or kind of based on manipulation, and I didn't want any of that stuff. So I put the call out. I'd been involved in zines before for the past five or six years so I put a little message on a couple zine boards and got a lot of responses, and that's what started Issue One.
What's the difference between this anthology and the average parenting guide?
We try and deal with the complexity of parenting and fathering in a way that a lot of them don't: We need to talk about drug use, we need to talk about incarceration, we need to talk about racism and sexism. And those are the top priorities, unlike either trying to control your child or trying to maintain your masculinity while you're parenting. Not to say “Rad Dad” isn't about the subtle beauty of parenting and the pleasures of it, and the humor and humility that we all learn—that's there—but we also try to go hand in hand with these other issues, which are just as important.
What I like about “Rad Dad” is that it doesn't focus as much on the parent-child dynamic, but deals more with experiences that parents and children have in the real world. It's not just Skittles and orange juice.
It's not Skittles and orange juice. You also get the representation that [parenting] is generally white, generally middle class, and that's not how I started parenting. And I think there's a lot of ways people are experiencing it differently, and those are the kinds of stories I'm trying to put out there.
Could you describe the “counterculture” that your zine is a part of?
It connects with a number of different ones. There's the queer community that has been really supportive and helped push “Rad Dad.” ... I'm talking about queer moms, gay men who aren't in partnerships but want children in their lives. So how do they negotiate that? How do we redefine “family” in that way? It's also been a part of the punk and radical community for a long period of time. I started it initially as a very anarchist thing. How as anarchists are we going to think about our politics in relation to our parenting? Which a lot of times forces us to compromise our politics in so many ways.
Can you give a specific example?
Institutional schooling has got huge problems to it; the way in which students of color are treated. And there's what's being taught as well, and how it's being taught. My son was a part of public schooling and I was involved in the school, so I can think of these amazing ways I would want to teach children outside of school, but the reality is my kids chose to go to school. If that's the case, I've got to find some way to work with that system that I kind of disagree with.
“Rad Dad” is submissions-based. How do you choose which pieces to publish?
Unfortunately, it's still work to fill a whole issue. Sometimes I get lots of wonderful submissions, and sometimes I'm begging and pleading and finding people on Facebook and asking them to write for it. I think about the gaps, the things that haven't been addressed, and kind of go for them. I haven't had a lot of young parents in the last few issues and I would really love young, 20-year-old or teen parents to write, although as someone who was once in that realm I know how incredibly overwhelmed you can be.
What's a typical reading event like?
I've learned to really ask people who are from the community to read with me. Whether it's a contributor to “Rad Dad” in the past who's done so or someone I've known who does zines that may not be about parenting. But by doing that we get this really eclectic, fun reading that lasts about an hour and is family-friendly; the kids can come. I say regularly that kid noises are totally fine—we can read over ’em—but adult noises need to stop.
Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood zine/book reading
Sunday, Dec. 18, 3 p.m.
Winning Coffee Co.
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