Dave Eggers, the polymath behind “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, the founder of McSweeney’s and 826 Valencia, recently published a beautiful new book, entitled Heroes of the Frontier.
It could be referred to as a guide to parenting in the 21st century, for some anyway. Here’s why:
The heroine, Josie, a former dentist in the throes of her daily life, escapes to the Alaskan wilderness with her two children. Avoiding responsibilities, like bizarre entanglements with her estranged husband and an unresolved legal matter, she traipses across the countryside in a borrowed RV. Trying to forge a new life, especially for her children, she recognizes how absurd her current one is and takes matters into her own hands.
This crazy adventure leaves Egger’s in the first person:
“She would remind them of joy. Document joy, tell tales of joy at bedtime, take photos and write diaries. Journals of joy that could never be denied or conveniently forgotten. She began to conceive a new theory of parenting, where the goal was not the achieving of a desired result.”
A new theory of parenting, one that was not predicated on tests and scores and getting a job as soon as you graduated a college you were destined to attend.
Eggers goes on,
“A new way of thinking…Raising children was not about perfecting them or preparing them for job placement. What a hollow goal! Twenty-two years of struggle for what – your child sits inside at an Ikea table staring into a screen while outside the sky changes, the sun rises and falls, hawks float like zeppelins. This was the common criminal pursuit of all contemporary humankind. Give my child an Ikea desk and twelve hours a day of sedentary typing. This will mean success for me, them, our family, our lineage. She would not pursue this. She would not subject her children to this. They would not seek these specious things, no. It was about making them loved in a moment in the sun.”
While Heroes of the Frontier has all the makings of a postmodern dystopian novel, it somehow betrays itself, offering an endless sense of hope and promise.
It’s a radical view on modern parenting, and in some ways controversial. However, if you’re looking for a good read in the dark winter evenings, we highly recommend it to spark conversation around the dinner table.
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