Cover image for Raising fences : a black man's love story
Raising fences : a black man's love story
Datcher, Michael, 1967-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
262 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3554.A8236 R35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3554.A8236 R35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS3554.A8236 R35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In the inner-city African American community in which Michael Datcher grew up, he and the boys he hung with all lacked fathers or father figures. And yet, he argues, despite what the media might say about black men, the dream he and his male friends nurtured was the same dream as that of most Americans: to have a family, a house, love, stability. He calls it their picket-fence dream. Raising Fences is Datcher's story of his own experience of being black and longing for stability and family. But it's also the story of other young black men and how they turn their reality -- instability, violence, and a lack of male role models -- into that picket-fence dream.

Author Notes

Michael Datcher is a poet and critically acclaimed journalist who has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post , and The Baltimore Sun , and has appeared as a guest analyst on numerous television and radio shows, including Nightline and Dateline . He lives in Los Angeles, where he is the director of literary programs at the World Stage Writers' Workshop.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Growing up, Datcher faced the constant temptation of succumbing to street life as a survival tactic, seeking on the street the approval and protection that was lacking in his family life. But, rescued by his athletic prowess and academic focus, he obtained entry to the world of the University of California at Berkeley. Doubts about his own self-worth and adequacy were complicated by his newfound awareness of Western man's historical oppression of people of color, and yet, in a spiritual quest, he eventually is attracted to a cult nearly dominated by white leadership. In essence, Datcher, a journalist and poet, extends to readers a reflection on his personal journey from a painful childhood--raised by an adopted mother, fathered by a man who raped his biological mother--to manhood and responsible fatherhood that he feels befits an exemplary black man. --Vernon Ford

Publisher's Weekly Review

Much like Mark Matousek's acclaimed memoir, Sex Death Enlightenment, Datcher's debut confronts the psychosocial damage caused by fatherlessness. In this case, the paternal absence is compounded by abandonment by Datcher's mother. A former editor-in-chief at Image magazine, and now a successful poet and writer, the author spent part of his childhood in Long Beach, Calif., obsessed with the idea of becoming a husband and father, but determined not to become an absentee dad like many of the men in his African-American community. As a young boy, he idolized his adoptive mother, who acted as an emotional anchor for him during the turbulent years of his adolescence in the 1970s. (She had been handpicked to raise him by Datcher's biological mother, who had been raped at age 16.) Datcher's voice in this heartfelt confessional alternates between that of a truly bewildered young man desperately seeking a male role model and a hip, cocksure guy. Emotionally withdrawn and suffering from a stutter, Datcher seeks to find his way by running with a group of other lost souls, briefly stumbling into petty crime that leads to arrest and being terrorized by police. Later, he becomes romantically involved with a young Dominican woman, though complications soon develop that threaten to cast him into the role of absentee father that he has so long resisted. Deeply reflective, occasionally offbeat and tearful, Datcher's memoir combines attitude, honesty and romance in a way that should appeal to both men and women. This triumphant tale is a stunning tribute to perseverance, courage and the power of positive thinking. (Mar.) Forecast: Datcher's story taps into a raw nerve in the black community, and his vibrant, down-to-earth voice should, with the help of a national media tour and radio satellite tour, attract a strong following. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Alternating between flashbacks and real-time experiences, Datcher, a poet and journalist (Los Angeles Times, Washington Post), describes his childhood in inner-city Los Angeles as an adoptee cherished by a strong single mother whom he later chose over a birth family that offered to take him back. His most compelling point is that his later social mobility and personal relationships were both motivated by and undermined by the lack of a father (his biological mother was raped). Sidetracks into promiscuity, lawbreaking, and a kind of religious cult lend a gritty authenticity to the narrative. Although emotionally powerful, explicit, and poetic, Datcher's first original work (he edited Tough Love: The Life and Death of Tupac Shakur) ultimately reads like a work in progress. Recommended for urban public libraries where it would complement the less introspective and more tragic story chronicled in Antwone Fisher's Finding Fish (LJ 1/01). Both books provide nonstereotypical coming-of-age and coming-into-success stories of young black men in late 20th-century America. Antoinette Brinkman, MLS, Evansville, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.