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A Photo Of The Book, My Sometimes Dad

Family reconfiguration through a queer lens: My Sometimes Dad

By: Shoshana Magnet

This one is close to home. I long for narratives that do not treat family reconfiguration and breakdown as only happening to other people. COVID-19 ushered in a new era of family breakdown – symbolized by comedian John Mulaney when he introduced his latest comedy special with the equivalent of: “Haven’t seen you in a while. How are you? Gotten divorced?” Children urgently need complicated narratives that help them deal with family reconfiguration in ways that acknowledge its pain. We need picture books for kids that do not only feature perfect “happily ever afters.” 

I felt this lack keenly when reading books on divorce to a class of kids. A small boy didn’t bother to raise his hand before calling out, “Where are the stories about divorce where you don’t see the dad anymore?” Stalling for time, I said, “Who else would like to see a book like this?” Many children raised their hands. Searching for books about divorces that do not end happily yielded far too few results. In the spirit of this lack, I drafted my own book, My Sometimes Dad.

A photo of the book, My Sometimes DadMy Sometimes Dad

Written by Shoshana Magnet and illustrated by Haeon Grace Kang

This book took two years to write and comes from the mouths of children who have struggled with inconsistent, unavailable, or no longer available parents. This book aims to put pictures and words to the complex realities of loving someone who may or may not be able to be there for you, the “sometimes” parent. This book is for all the kids and the grownups who have struggled to find words to describe their “sometimes” parent. Whether you are a child of a wonderful stepdad who disappeared when his marriage to your mom broke up or had a child who had a special bond with a beloved caregiver until they didn’t, this book is for the kids of all kinds of “sometimes parents” that exist. From the “sometimes parents” who disappear into addiction to the “sometimes parents” who are right there in your living room but who somehow still manage to remain aloof, ill-attuned, or under some version of what Alison Bechdel would call the “plexiglass dome” – an emotional barrier where you might even be able to see them, but they still aren’t there: they have checked out for the night.: I see you, and I believe you. And it hurts. 


    An illustration from the book, My Sometimes Dad


An illustration from the book, My Sometimes DadIllustrated by the incomparable Haeon Grace Kang (also the author of The ABCs of Women in Music, with Anneli Loepp Thiessen), My Sometimes Dad talks about the painful attachment of a child to a parent who is inconsistently present. Excitement to see the parent, grief, rage, confusion, and love are all present – often in a single moment. This book also features a dad who is a trans man. Part of the painful part of this time of increasing homo- and trans-phobia has been that children from queer families are being made to feel more different. “Why is your mom so weird?” asked one child to another in my reading circle. To which there is no answer. We need books that celebrate pride and multiple kinds of families. And we need books that acknowledge that queer families do not always work out. Just like heterosexual families, just like every family, painful disconnections and ruptures happen that are not or will not be healed. “What’s it like having a different kind of family from the other families in your class?” I asked the kids in a Grade 1 class. “It’s sort of good and sort of bad,” they said, like many families, like life. 

This book begins with a little boy trying to understand the abrupt change in his relationship with his dad.  

“My dad used to live here.  But now he doesn’t.”

An illustration from the book, My Sometimes DadFor all the kids and grownups who have struggled with sometimes parents, this book is from my heart to yours.   

My Sometimes Dad book can be ordered here. 


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