Saturday, 1 April 2017

Fathers and Sons (and daughters)

I have been thinking a lot about relationships between parents and their children lately. Originally I thought this was about the fact it was Mother's Day then I took a closer look at the TV series, books and music I'd been listening to and realised lots of people are thinking about family relationships and their impact.

Fathers and Sons: Howard Cunnell
Recently radio 4 featured Cunnell's memoir as their book of the week - you get to hear a 15 minute snippet of the book each day - catch up HERE. Fathers and Sons is about Howard - how his father-less childhood shaped him, and the relationship with his step-daughter as she becomes the man she was always meant to be. I really enjoyed the descriptions early on of him brushing his tom-boy daughter's hair - and referencing Gary Synder's poem 'Axe Handles'. The thought here is that we become like our forebears through example; when you are making a new axe handle you have the example in your hands! Cunnell provides plenty of food for thought about traits that can be inherited through nurture not just genetics.

ROOTS: American miniseries
I have just back from an adventure in America and it has ignited a real interest in American history in me. As such I was thrilled to discover this remake of ROOTS on iPlayer adapted from a book written in the 1970's. The story follows the fortunes of four generations of the same family travelling from Gambia, to North Carolina - whilst it focuses on the impact of slavery also touches on other topics like the American Revolutionary War.

Despite their lives being physically owned by other people Kunta Kinte and his descendants assert their own identity by holding a naming ceremony for newborns under the stars. Kunta was a brave and clever man, always planning a way to escape; he teaches his daughter how to mount horses and how to read, this key skill is passed down from one generation to another for the daughters as much as the sons. We also see the same ingenuity and charisma we saw in Kunta Kinte has been passed all the way down to his grandson George who raises chickens and his great-grandson who becomes a blacksmith and eventually a freeman. Kunta and his descendants may have been enslaved but they continued to live their true identities beneath the surface; and Kunta becomes a mythical model who lends his descendants strength in times of trial.

(Credit: BBC)

Dear Theodosia: Hamilton the Musical
I am obsessed with Hamilton at the moment, particularly the mixtape and particularly this track 'Dear Theodosia'. This song is put in the mouth primarily of Aaron Burr. Burr married a woman 10 years his senior who died 12 years into their marriage, and their only surviving child was named after her, a girl called Theodosia. When Theodosia lost her mother Aaron Burr took on the mantle for ensuring she is educated in the social graces of 18th century society but also the more masculine disciplines of arithmetic, Latin and Greek. In the song Burr is joined by Hamilton singing about his son Philip, both Burr and Hamilton reflect on the absence of father's in their lives and a desire to make an America that will enable them to be successful. Whilst Burr was very present in his daughter's life, Hamilton is portrayed as being absent; despite this his son Philip becomes a man very much in his father's mould - with tragic consequences.

(Credit: Joan Marcus)

And thus concludes my review of three stories of Fathers doing their best by the sons and daughters!