Thursday, November 04, 2010
Dr. Charles Smith, vice president for the Division of Student Affairs at SC State University, is reengaging the nation with a topic that is all too familiar, especially within the African-American community. Smith’s book, titled “This Morning My Father Died…SO WHAT?” sheds light on the seriousness of absentee fathers and the emotional pain that is inflicted on their children.
Upon first glance, the title may seem harsh but it’s real, according to Smith. “One day I was just sitting down and writing different titles. Some kind of way this just emerged and it fit.” And, according to the latest statistics, the title is appropriate for the over 68 percent of African-American children being raised by single mothers. Furthermore, census data indicates that 25 million children in general live apart from their fathers.
Smith had a chance to hear the stories from some within this 25 million while attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. “One of the scenarios in this book came from a white woman I knew. She told me her story and I remembered it,” recollected Smith. “She was telling me about her father and the tears just started running down her face as she recalled her story and her life. I threaded that into my book.”
As a matter of fact, Smith threaded several stories into this pervasive novel; stories from men and women and stories from all races, to build his main character, Carlton Thomas. Carlton is a successful engineer who one morning receives a call from a woman that he vaguely remembers, the same woman whom Carlton’s father left his mother to pursue. Carlton begins to reflect on a life that he, his two sisters and his mother struggled through monetarily and emotionally, although his father lived only blocks away with his common-law wife. His father’s death only precipitated painful memories for Carlton and his sisters.
“My mother, sisters and I had it very hard for a long time until my mother started working two jobs. When the water was turned off, we used five gallon jugs to carry water from our neighbors or some other relative’s house to make sure we had enough water that we could take baths in until we could get the bill paid. Someone also had to heat the water on the stove to get it hot in order to take a bath. In the morning, we had to use ice cold water to wash our faces and brush our teeth,” wrote Smith.
In the excerpt from the book, Smith makes it clear that absentee fathers not only affect the sons who grow to manhood, but it also affects the women like Carlton’s sisters. Smith cautions young ladies who have unprotected sex. “If you are going to engage in sex, be smart,” says Smith. “Is that somebody that you want to be your child’s father?”
Smith’s ability to delve into the psyche of those who have dealt with absenteeism is even more apparent because of his own painful story, including having a father that he barely knew. “My father actually died,” notes Smith, “and I had some emotions that I didn’t think I would have about his death. The morning that he died I was on my way to work. I decided not to go to work because I didn’t want people to ask me questions.”
Smith hopes that those who read his book, both men and women, receive his positive message. Women must consider the seriousness of choosing the right father for their children, while men must understand the significance of raising their children and becoming positive role models for them. “Men sometimes don’t understand until they get older that you can leave your girlfriend or divorce your wife, but you should never leave your kids,” says Smith.
“This Morning My Father Died…SO WHAT?” is now available at amazon.com, Follett Bookstore on the SC State campus and at your local bookstores. A book signing will also take place on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Miller F. Whittaker library.
Smith is also the author of three additional books: “On the Sideline or In the Game,” “A Funeral, A Wedding and the Journey Between” and “The Last Shall Be the First.”