Help Us Stay Paywall-Free

Democracy depends on the free exchange of ideas. Help sustain it with a tax-deductible donation today.

June 21, 2020

Incarcerated Fathers. Trans Fathers. Founding Fathers.

An alternative father’s day reading list.

From incarcerated fathers, to trans fathers, to the question of who is your father, today’s picks comprise an alternative father’s day reading list. We highlight the men who sought to challenge traditional norms of fatherhood by emancipating children from their parents, and we challenge the testosterone enthusiasts who argue that “real men” can’t be caregivers. 

We also have an excerpt from Barnard historian Nara Milanich’s book Paternity: The Elusive Quest for the FatherAt the very moment that DNA testing has promised paternal certainty for the first time in human history, she argues that uncertainty about fatherhood as a cultural force appears as powerful as ever. Above all, this is because “science was never capable of finding the father in the first place. . . . The truly significant question about paternity is not empirical—Who is the father?—but normative: What do we want him to be?” In the age of modern genetics, the answer to the question “Who’s your daddy?” remains as complicated as ever.

As soon as there was a Constitution, fights about its meaning began.

William Hogeland

A childhood steeped in guns shows that toxic masculinity and racism are at the heart of U.S. gun culture.

Wallter Johnson

“You used terms such as revolutionaries. Comrades. And, most illegally of all: lovers. Unmarried people who fuck each other without the goal of childrening. Well, I was sunk.” A tale of forbidden love in an age when corporations have replaced government.

Jordy Rosenberg

Men's hormone levels correlate with their pregnant partners. Some men even experience morning sickness.

Anne Fausto-Sterling

Poetry is offering new candor about the ways men care for their children.

Stephanie Burt

More than 1.5 million children currently have a parent in prison; for 94 percent of these children, that parent is the father.

Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Mary Lyndon Shanley

Seventies activists wanted to emancipate kids and destroy the nuclear family—so how did we end up with gay marriage instead?

Michael Bronski

The meaning of fatherhood remains elusive, even in the age of DNA-based paternity testing.

Nara Milanich

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Sign up for our newsletters to get them straight to your inbox before they appear online.

Boston Review is nonprofit and reader funded.

We believe in the power of collective reasoning and imagination to create a more just world. That’s why we’re committed to keeping our website free and open to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. But we can’t do it without the financial support of our readers.

Help sustain a public space for collective reasoning and imagination, without ads or paywalls:

Become a supporting reader today.

Get Our Newsletter

Sign up to get vital reading on politics, literature, and more sent straight to your inbox.

Donate to support work like this:

Most Recent


Who did this to you?

Sean Patrick Mulroy

Jefferson Cowie speaks with Aziz Rana about whether the language of freedom can be taken back from its "sordid history" in the U.S. context.

Aziz Rana, Jefferson Cowie

While the U.S.–Israel alliance has become isolated, new ones are emerging.

Helena Cobban

"A tremendous resource in this time of chaos."

We publish leading scholars, activists, and writers on the most pressing political debates of our time.

But as a small nonprofit, we rely on reader support. Will you help support bold thinking about a more just world?

"An indispensable pillar of the public sphere."

That’s what sociologist Alondra Nelson says of Boston Review. Independent and nonprofit, we believe in the power of collective reasoning and imagination to create a more just world.

That’s why there are no paywalls on our website, but we can’t do it without the support of our readers. Will you make a tax-deductible contribution today?