A dialogue between father and son, combining prose and poetry, that uses fishing as a shared activity and a metaphor, to address the universal challenge of raising good children. The lessons they share have the power to save a generation of young black men.
Jack L. Daniel is Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Dean of Students at the University of Pittsburgh.
Omari C. Daniel is a poet and teacher in the Montgomery County Public Schools, near Washington, D.C.
"Shows us that of all the bridges that boys must cross to manhood, there is none so sturdy as the love of family. This book is a warm, soulful journey back to where so many successful black men came from and a guide to where so many troubled young black men need to be."—Bebe Moore Campbell, author of What You Owe Me
"A must-read. The Daniel men have given us a wise, sensitive—and, at times, hilarious—book about the nurturing and bonding of African American men. It is a soulful, spell-binding tale of the journey to manhood across generations. Through trash talking, analyses of the social landscape, and the best poetry I’ve seen in a long time, the book teaches us what it means to train up a black male child in these times."—Geneva Smitherman, co-author of Educating African American Males
"A remarkable achievement. A rare literary conversation, with audacity and authenticity, between a father and son, this book is certain to become a classic."—Molefi Kete Asante, Editor, Journal of Black Studies
“This is a crisp, creative, dual memoir written with purpose born of hope -- that the candid story of an African-American father and son coming to understand each other would instruct and perhaps inspire all fathers to take an active interest in the upbringing of their children”.—Bruce Clayton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/15/2003
“A story well told about a father and son’s enjoyment of fishing, but it’s deeeper than that. The authors break down and destroy the negative stereotypes associated with African-American men. This masterfully written book contains stories that put you right in the action. . . . This powerful book encourages family, trust, knowledge and, more importantly, the ingredients to change the lives of African-american males for this generation, and those to come. It is an excellent book for our time, and a must read!”—Carlo L. Taylor Sr., New Pittsburgh Courier, 5/28/03
“An excellent and delightful autobiography, a book any man, white or black, who is concerned about being a father and who likes to fish, write poetry, or hunt could learn from. Like Langston Hughes’s “The Big Sea’, Dr. Daniel’s book captures one with its humor, honesty, and depth of understanding.”—Robert L. Tener, African American Review, Fall 2003
“An unapologetically honest and soulful masterpiece.”--In Search of Fatherhood, 2005, Diane Sears
Throughout his life--as an academic and a professional, as a husband and a father, and as an African American male--Jack Daniel waged his share of battles.
Fishing was always his primary solace. At first, young Jack used the beds and banks of the Juniata River to escape the harshness of a two-bedroom tenement in the projects of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. During the summers, he would also fish small creeks and ponds as relief from the tedious work "down home" on his grandparents' Virginia farm. In time, his expertise grew, as did his interest, and he began sharing a fishing camp with other Daniel men-his ribald uncles, cousins, and other relations-in what became a family tradition that would eventually span four generations. Jack was exposed to a variety of male role models, especially his two hero uncles, William and Nash, who worked hard, drank hard, and generally set out to "live the life." And his lifelong passion--his "fever" in his son Omari's words-- presented him with unexpected insights into work, life, and parenting.
Jack, by his own admission, was a tough father. He raised Omari to work beyond his own expectations and the standards educators and society placed on young black males. Jack, as an administrator at a major metropolitan university, pushed his son academically and morally. He did not approve of Omari's favorite music, the message or the language, and he did not tolerate mediocrity. Like most adolescents, Omari felt his father was too demanding, too quick to punish, with too little regard for his own feelings.
That relationship changed when they were on the Juniata River, casting for bass and wading in the swift currents. When Omari first began fishing, Jack would bind their waists together as a safety precaution. Omari, inevitably, would fall under the water's incessant tug, and Jack would pull him up. Gradually, the rope they used as a lifeline took on a deeper, metaphoric meaning.
Yet it wasn't until Omari began writing poetry that Jack truly understood the importance of those fishing trips. In reading his son's powerful words, he gained insight into the intergenerational bond that he had created, not only with Omari, but with his own father-who would eventually join them on the banks of the Juniata River-and with the other men in their close-knit, family community.
We Fish is their tale-a father and son's shared dialogue in poetry and in prose, memoir and reflection, as they delight in their time spent fishing while considering the universal challenge of raising good children. Their story and their lesson have the power to teach today's young African American men about friendship, family, and trust; and the potential to save a generation from the dangers of the modern world and from themselves.