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Daddy Dearest

​Berkeley author Michael Chabon tackles the subject of fatherhood in his new essay collection.


Photo by Benjamin Tice Smith

Michael Chabon, one of the East Bay’s most luminous literary figures, turns his clever eye to complicated questions around parenting in his new collection of essays, Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning Berkeley resident has four children with acclaimed writer Ayelet Waldman, and in Pops, he reflects on his fraught relationship with his father, the effect kids have on creative output, teaching his older son how to not be a jerk to women, and even the unique nature of life in Northern California.

In an essay titled “The Bubble People,” Chabon writes: “I felt like telling my daughter that she ought to be grateful she was getting to grown up in Berkeley, where, if you are fourteen and feel like wearing a crazy Jayne Mansfield hat and rubber boots down the street in broad daylight, that is okay with your fellow citizens. Crazy is a choice they can get behind; indeed, they might on balance be inclined to insist on it.”

It wouldn’t be unkind to say Chabon lives in his own special bubble, one that separates him and his clan from your average family. Pops kicks off with an opus that originally ran in GQ magazine, in which Chabon details taking his then 13-year-old son, Abe, to Paris Fashion Week in 2016. Even at a young age, Abe possesses a sophisticated sense of style, one that manifests itself in designer shirts and a pair of $400 silver Adidas sneakers by Raf Simons (though he bought them online for $250 with money he earned doing chores and raking leaves). He is far more comfortable at Fashion Week than his father, and while most dads can relate to the idea of trying to find a connection with one’s child, the story does place the Chabons in a rarefied universe.

Still, Pops is a quick and delightful read (the book is a concise 144 pages), and one that may spark readers’ own thoughts on the joys and frustrations of parenting. At the very least, its well-timed release makes for a great Father’s Day gift. michaelchabon.com.

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