Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Project Fatherhood - Jorja Leap

My review of Jorja Leap's inspiring story, Project Fatherhood, first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am posting it today with their permission. Hope you enjoy!

First line: "My relationship with Watts began with a riot."

Gang expert and policy advisor Jorja Leap narrates the touching story of former gang members in Watts, Los Angeles who come together to learn how to be fathers and end up changing their community. Leap, a petite woman of Greek descent, is recruited to the group--because of her master social worker status--by its founder Mike Cummings, himself a former gang leader and now a community activist. Often told by the members that she doesn't understand because she's "not from the ghetto," (note: this phrase appears repeatedly throughout the book, one example of it is p.174) Project Fatherhood is evidence that while she may not fully comprehend their experiences, she loves these men and takes enormous pride in their accomplishments.

At first the African-American and Latino men reluctantly attend Project Fatherhood meetings with the enticement of meals and gift cards. They share their stories and frustrations, discuss prescribed topics and begin to recruit others. The trust they build with one another enables them to reject the Black Muslim's attempt to infiltrate the program, participate in community activism, even feel confident bringing their children so everyone can help them parent when they're overwhelmed by frustration. Finally in an inspiring turn of events, the fathers decide to reach out and mentor the boys of their neighborhood. The students become the teachers.

For her part, Leap discovers the men are correct; there is a lot she didn't grasp. But with their help she learns, and Project Fatherhood is the primer for all who weren't lucky enough to receive the education first hand. Funny, hopeful, heart-warming and eye-opening, Project Fatherhood has life-changing lessons for every reader.

Project Fatherhood is available in hardcover from Beacon Press (9780807014530) and as an unabridged audio (9781494565398), narrated by Randye Kaye, from Tantor Audio.

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