About the Book — Reviews

Published Reviews (Abridged) of My Father Before Me

"Unlike women, says Diamond, to whom mothering ability is natural, men must learn how to be fathers. And as the noted psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott gave us the notion of the "good enough mother," clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Diamond proposes the "good enough father," a man who cultivates his own emotional life and becomes fully engaged in his children's inner lives to enhance their growth. While fathers certainly influence their daughters, he continues, the bond between fathers and sons is "particularly intricate and complex." Diamond delineates the stages of a father's development, beginning during the wife's pregnancy (the author focuses on traditional families, but says his framework applies to nontraditional families as well). He traces the father-son relationship from the protective "guardian" phase of the son's infancy through successive stages of letting go as a father allows his son to separate and mature, guides the boy into manhood and, finally, parent and child move closer together again as a father ages and the reality of death must be accepted. Drawing on his own practice and on psychoanalytic theory, Diamond gives a good foundation for beginning to understand the intricacies of the father-son bond." — Publishers Weekly

"Through his writing, Diamond demonstrates the importance of the father–son relationship through a masculine lens. What makes this book clinically relevant is the poignant manner in which the author illustrates the developmental process with real-life therapeutic scenarios. All in all, Diamond does a wonderful job illustrating the impact that fathers have on their sons through their lifespan and likewise how sons end up influencing their fathers. Individuals wanting to better understand the father–son dyad should read this book because it provides a lens into the relationship through the developmental process." — PsycCRITIQUES

"Michael J. Diamond's beautifully wrought text has much to offer the layperson and clinician alike in understanding the ways that fathers and sons influence each other throughout the life cycle. This self-in-relation perspective is brought to vivid life by the author's moving and stimulating exploration of how the reciprocal relationship between fathers and sons liberate both from the constraints of patriarchy. These lofty ambitions are successfully realized by the author quite economically (in) this book, just over 200 pages in length. My father before me is replete with wisdom (and) makes for compelling reading." — Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

"This thoughtful and thought-provoking book examines fatherhood from a perspective that recognizes and elucidates the mutual influences of fathers and sons that covers the life course. This major undertaking is presented in a modest length book that is elegant in its seeming simplicity. Dr. Diamond weaves fundamental, complex psychoanalytic tenants into understandable, relevant discourses about the psychological importance of fathers throughout the continuum of development. Diamond seamlessly shifts focus among the confluence of influences that generations of fathers and sons have on one another. This important theme that runs throughout Diamond's book should help increase appreciation that just as relationships are prominent facets of women's lives, so too, are they in men's lives. My Father Before Me speaks eloquently to fathers, recognizing the pivotal role of fatherhood in a man's life and in the lives of his sons. One is left with the sense that Diamond's book on the powerful presence of fathers in their sons' lives and the ongoing interchange of generational influences is a labor of love. This is conveyed in a more intimate way through his personal reflections on fatherhood. In a more expansive way, he creates a space for the reader to consider life courses and the meaning of significant fathers in their own lives as well as in the lives of the families with whom they work." — Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

"Diamond gives luminous signposts to guide us in managing the richest, most difficult, and poignant triangles of marriage and parental life. Sons, fathers, and grandfathers will discover new possibilities of meaningful experience and interpretation of current experience. This book is one that can grace the libraries of clinicians, teachers, and parents. The reliance on literature, biblical texts, and clinical and life experience give a credible base for understanding emotional process in families and in identifying the means to work within that process." — The Family Psychologist

"Both Barack Obama and Tim Russert have best-selling books on what children learn at their father's knee. Into this father revolution comes Michael Diamond's book on the influence of fathers and sons on each other throughout the life span. Diamond sees parenting as a parallel relationship that includes growth for both the father and son at each of the child's developmental stages. Diamond movingly describes the changes that occur for the father with age and focuses on issues of masculinity for men who feel they are losing their sense of competence in a competitive world. The book is clearly written and is set up in a way that will make sense to the reader. I believe it will be of great value to the well-educated client who is working on fathering issues and seeking relevant literature. It will also be of value to male clinicians who are treating men who may be grappling with understanding their own relationships with their sons and their fathers. Finally, for those interested in how masculinity has come to shape behavior, particularly in mid- and later life, the book will be useful." — The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

"Diamond takes the reader through a rich, well-crafted and sensitive description of the stages not only of a father's input with his son, but of the son's reciprocal influence on his father. This lifelong journey is a particular strength of Diamond's work, transcending the genre of ‘studies of parenting' to a larger framework of fathers and sons growing old(er) together. Diamond's skilful writing makes this an excellent resource book for therapists and researchers, yet at the same time it is an accessible read for reflective adults wanting to explore experiences of parenting and being parented. The central psychodynamic plot of human experience is skillfully and sensitively inhabited by Diamond, often through referring to his own experience as a son and a father." — Journal of Family Therapy

"My Father Before Me is a well-organized book. Diamond presents a portrait of the powerful roles that fathers can play in their sons' lives and provides a blueprint to develop relationships and a guide for how to examine the relationship to improve their current interactions. Diamond creates an easy-reading yet insightful book. The vignettes share the multifaceted relations that fathers and sons experience. These stories are filled with emotion. The information provided throughout this book could help guide men to better understand their own relationships with their father or son and work toward building better interactions with either. I recommend this book as supplemental reading to cover fathering in a sociology family class. Even more, I would recommend this book as reading for any parent mother or father to understand the influence that fathers can have in the development of their sons and to understand how the positive relationships that fathers develop can result in a more ‘realistic, mature and integrated sense of their own manhood'." — International Social Science Review

"Diamond explores the reciprocity of the father-son relationship. It's refreshing and humanizing to view fathers as a work-in-progress through their own lives; not just that we are always in the process of becoming fathers as our children grow, but also that as men we face our own developmental challenges. Diamond writes from a clinical perspective, reflecting on the men he has worked with and on his own life as a father, son, and husband. What Diamond does offer is a view of the vital importance of fathers and sons for each other. Fathers not simply as guides, limit-setters or protectors for sons; sons not simply as hopeful carriers of their father's immortality, or nagging reminders of their mortality. Fathers and sons, rather, are important to each other as real-life, everyday nutriments for each other's successful resolution of life's challenges. Overall, Diamond has produced a useful book for both trade and professional audiences, one that is not too technical for engaged parents but remains sophisticated enough to appeal to therapists and researchers." — Fathering Journal

"Diamond digs into the nonlinear emotional and behavioral ties that bind many son-father-grandfather relationships. Diamond's work raises important questions regarding the reciprocal processes affecting fathers and sons throughout their lives. With colorful and poignant examples, he underscores the critical message that fathers' and sons' developmental trajectories are often intertwined. The book will be a valuable contribution beyond its trade audience. Ideally, it will also push scholars to examine how men narratively reconstruct their lives as sons, fathers, and grandfathers. Personally, I plan to revisit the book as my children and I journey through our intertwined life courses." — Journal of Marriage and Family

"A worthwhile read for the information on boys' early development alone, this book also helps us understand why parent-child conflict is natural through adolescence and why it can continue throughout life." — Parenting Education Practitioners Talk

"If you have young children or you work with them, you may be especially interested in how men develop emotionally, psychologically, morally and even physically through active fathering. We appreciated Diamond's comments regarding the tasks that a father most often assumes." — Parenting Press

Additional Reviews of My Father Before Me

"My Father Before Me is a tour de force of scientific wisdom, practical suggestions for parents, poignant stories that move us deeply, and a model for understanding the incredibly powerful emotional forces of fathers upon their sons, and sons, in turn, upon their fathers." — William S. Pollack, Ph.D., author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood and Real Boys' Voices

"A rich psychological and very personal portrait of fathers and sons. It is enlightening and encouraging reading for us all." — Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

"A lovely, lucid exploration of the intimate grammar and complex choreography of the father-son relationship throughout the life-span," — Brad Sachs, Ph.D., author of When No One Understands: Letters to a Teenager on Life, Loss, and the Hard Road to Adulthood

"I was touched to the core by Michael Diamond's wise and passionate story of the ways fathers help grow their sons as well as grow up with them. The explanation of the way fathers can help their sons become both independent and connected is a groundbreaking vision of a liberated masculinity." — Donna Bassin, Ph.D., author of Female Sexuality: Contemporary Engagements

"This wonderful book focuses our attention on the reciprocal masculine current between fathers and sons with compassion and clarity. Michael Diamond helps us all to tease out the recurrent melodies, harmonies and themes in the father-son dialogue." — James M. Herzog, M.D., author of Father Hunger: Explorations With Adults and Children

"A useful and wide-ranging portrait of how sons and fathers continue to play a powerful role in each other's life long after both have supposedly 'grown up.'" — Samuel Osherson, Ph.D., author of Finding Our Fathers

"With depth and insight, Diamond explores for the first time, in a most readable way, the complex ever-changing development of fathers and sons." — Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D., author of The Measure of a Man and co-author of Becoming a Father

"Both scholarly and anecdotal, the book contains profound truths while remaining accessible and evocative." — John Munder Ross, Ph.D., author of What Men Want

"This is the best book on the multifaceted relationship between fathers and sons." — Louis Breger, Ph.D., author of Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision

"This original, much-needed, and generous-spirited contribution is not just for fathers and sons but for their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters." — Harriet Wrye, Ph.D., co-author of Narration of Desire: Erotic Transferences and Countertransferences

"At a time when gender gaps and 'the trouble with boys' is in the news and on our minds, Diamond's book offers an important first step in addressing the problem – a sensitive and insightful reading of the male experience through the lens of the father-son relationship." – Steven D. Axelrod, Ph.D., author of Work and the Evolving Self

"A book for any man who wants to better understand himself, his father, and his son; and for any women who are baffled by the males in their lives." — Calvin A. Colarusso, M.D., author of Child and Adult Development

"Unencumbered by the leaden jargon of academic prose, and rich in astutely observed clinical vignettes, Michael Diamond's wisdom and clarifying framework should be of particular value to new parents of either sex." — Stephen J. Ducat, Ph.D., author of The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity

"What is unique about this work is that Dr. Diamond has captured the joy, and the sense of wonder and awe that is experienced by fathers as they truly connect and come to understand and reach out to nurture their sons, even as they are helping them to separate and be more autonomous and more aware of the outside world," — Martin Greenberg M.D., author of The Birth of a Father

"Diamond's writing is interesting, accessible, a seemingly seamless synthesis of complex analytic theory. In sum, Diamond's tone is humble, tender, kind and profound. This book is a good guide for the lay public and for clinicans with the focus on what is good for men to do (versus the more typical, what men do that is bad). It shows what to aspire to and how this looks in everyday terms. A loving gift to fathers and their sons." — Dianne Elise, Ph.D., Associate Editor, Studies in Gender and Sexuality

My Father Before Me
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As their young children begin to emerge from early infancy, fathers come forward as the "second other" who will initially impact their lives by introducing them to the world. A father's involvement as a loving and engaged presence that is different than the mother enables his child to begin to experience his own emerging sense of separateness from his mother in a less distressing fashion. The child is also learning that others, like his father, can be there to provide for him when his mother is unavailable.
Excerpt from My Father Before Me