BOOK REVIEW: "Alternadad: The True Story of One Family's Struggle to Raise a Cool Kid in America"


Since the fateful day I was told: 'Read the Baby books or Die' I hoped and wished for the "hip-dad" equivalent to the famed "What To Expect When You're Expecting". When i heard about Neal Pollack's "Alternadad" with it's hand drawn cover art featuring tattoos, nose rings and an Aqua Bat's tee I rejoiced thinking I had found the holy grail of the hip how-to. Although an interesting read, it's falls short of expectations.


































The main issue I have with the book is it's outright dumbing down of a father's role in parenting. Within the first 5 pages his wife says "Entertain him!" Now!" to which he replies "He didn't need to be entertained; he needed to be pacified. I turned on the TV". The stereotyping of the 'idiot dad' does not stop there, Pollack goes on to talk about how during his wife's pregnancy she read every book, began eating healthier and stopped attending events where people may be smoking. While on the other hand he began drinking more heavily, attending more rock concerts and smoking more pot. The book is written well but I am not a fan of anything that makes Dad's seem like unhelpful, incompetent idiots.

The book describes the journey from over privileged teenager to a beatnik writer in his early 30's who finds himself married and broke with a kid on the way. It is a quick read with lots of funny stories and insights into new parenting covering topics such as naming, circumcision, picking a school and the general up bringing of new baby. Although entertaining I found myself appalled at some of the things Pollack did as a parent, that he was so proud of he felt the need to write a book about it. I am in no way trying to claim to be the 'perfect parent', but some of the stuff in the book was so bad I almost stopped reading. I won't ruin the book for you but some examples that really stuck out to me were bringing their sleeping infant to loud parties (as long as the party goers smoked outside of course) and leaving his wife and three month old infant to go to Amsterdam for a poet's convention where he got so high he poured water on his head on stage and then publicly insulted a fellow poet's ethnicity. Another one was when he left to tour the country with a band he had started leaving his wife and child at home yet again, and don't get me started on "Daddy Time" and "Mommy Time" and the arguments that broke out about who's 'turn' it was to play with the baby.

I kept waiting for that moment in the book where he would realize how shitty he was being and change his ways and become a Dad worth writing a book about, but it never came. His wife, Regina, was no saint either who for the first year of their son's life realized that she could watch entire series of TV shows and complete video games front to back all while nursing, the book literally reads "i did nothing but watch TV", what a great way to bond with your child over the first few months. There were however shining moments where I said "aww", moments where he seemed like a good Dad such as "Music School" where he taught his son Elijah about rocking out, moshing and what he considered good music, but the cons outweighed the pro's too heavily for me to really enjoy this book or recommend it to anyone. I would be interested in a sequel to see if things have changed for the Pollack family because like I said I enjoyed the writing style, just not the content.

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