Review

My Father, Dancing

by Bliss Broyard

Bliss Broyard's
collection of eight stories about the relationships between men and
women is a moving exploration of the nuances of the interactions
therein. Focusing on sexuality, miscommunication, uncertainty,
self-realization, and reconciliation, among other emotions, these
stories are detailed portraits of small moments in the lives of
young women coming into their own.

Kate, Lucy, Celia, Pilar, Bridget, and Lily all experience
awakenings related to the changes that go along with growing up and
getting older (and wiser). They struggle with the knowledge that
their fathers are no longer their primary protectors and that they
must now seek this security and companionship in husbands,
boyfriends, and friends.  

The fathers here are strong and complex, as are the daughters. They
teach, nurture, disappoint, and love like only a father can love a
daughter. In the first and title story, Kate begins memorializing
her dying father by recalling how they danced together in years
gone by --- first as a girl, and later on as a young woman when her
father sneaks her into bars so that they can dance to live music.
The father in "Mr. Sweetly Indecent" is the light of his daughter's
smile --- it is when our narrator catches him with another woman
that she realizes that she is not the only woman in his life, that
her father is flawed and not unlike other men that have caused her
heartache. In "Loose Talk," Pilar is living with her boyfriend yet
clearly not ready for it. Unable to admit to herself that the
relationship is failing, she attends a party with him one night
that ends in a reality check she may not have been prepared for.
Again, the illusion of virtue is swiftly revealed as false. "The
Trouble with Mr. Leopold" takes us to a girl's school where a
teacher and a father fight for control over a student's
education.  

Breathtakingly wrought with provocative prose, the women here are
balanced at the brink of departure and renewal. Suspended at the
moment in time when adult life rushes in and a daughter's
perception that her father is perfect is no longer relevant, these
stories are about daughters coming to know their fathers as equals
rather than as protectors. Like their fathers, the young women here
are courageous and self-assured, transitioning from the
free-spirited, trusting nature of childhood to the tougher day to
day of adult life with an awkward yet beautiful grace. As they come
to know life's most heartbreaking lessons of love and loss,
Broyard's women (though named quite delicately) prove their
resilience. Although the stories tend to end abruptly, we can
expect that life will grant each of these daughters the happiest,
most satisfying of endings.

Reviewed by Melanie Okadigwe on January 22, 2011

My Father, Dancing
by Bliss Broyard

  • Publication Date: August 1, 1999
  • Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0375400605
  • ISBN-13: 9780375400605