Why fathers cry at night A memoir in love poems, letters, recipes, and remembrances

Kwame Alexander

Book - 2023

Kwame Alexander shares snapshots of a man learning how to love. He takes us through stories of his parents: from being awkward newlyweds in the sticky Chicago summer of 1967, to the sometimes-confusing ways they showed their love to each other, and for him. Alexander attempts to deal with the unraveling of his marriage and the grief of his mother's recent passing while sharing the solace he found in learning how to perfect her famous fried chicken dish. With an open heart, Alexander weaves together memories to understand his greatest love for his daughters.

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Autobiographical poetry
New York, NY : Little, Brown & Company, Hachette Book Group 2023.
Main Author
Kwame Alexander (author)
First edition
Physical Description
228 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
  • Carrying On
  • A Letter to My Daughters
  • How to Read This Book
  • Part 1. Looking for Me
  • Part 2. Like Midnight Entering Sunrise
  • Part 3. Instructions for Leaving
  • Part 4. Why Fathers Cry at Night
  • Part 5. A Letter to My Mother
  • Part 6. Coda
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this heartfelt memoir, Newbery medalist Alexander (Rebound) churns on what he has learned--and is still learning--about love. He traces his model for romance to his parents, who taught him to "use his words," but were rarely affectionate and lived apart for decades. He shares hard-won lessons from the painful dissolution of his own marriages and his grief not only for those relationships but also for the questions he became too afraid to ask his father after his mother's death. Finally, he turns to his daughters and confronts the difficulty of embracing solitude as they grow up and away from the family home. Interleaved through these reflections are sensuous memories of meals and music, from cracking a $250 beer with poet Nikki Giovanni to reverse engineering his mother's fried chicken recipe after she died. Alexander observes that "we sometimes find poems in the strangest and most uncomfortable places," and, indeed, this candid and courageous work finds poetry in places both ordinary and extraordinary. It's a quiet triumph. Agent: Deneen Howell, Williams & Connolly. (May)Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated that both of the author's parents are deceased.

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A poetic and epistolary collage focused on familial, romantic, and nourishing love. "This is not a traditional memoir," writes Newbery Medalist Alexander in the first of three introductions. "These are just snapshots of a man learning to love. Again." In the second introduction, "A Letter to My Daughters," the author writes, "All the things I wished I could have learned from my mother and was too afraid to ask my father are between these covers." In the third, "How to Read This Book," he advises, "Let these humble meditations and musings / carry you close, permanent, abreast--a wave." The remaining sections of the book include "Looking for Me," "A Letter to My Mother," and an eponymous section. Using poetry, prose, and recipes, Alexander reminiscences about healing his long-distant relationship with his father; moving forward following the death of his beloved mother; being inspired to become a writer by--and being a college student of--Nikki Giovanni ("My first grade in Nikki's class was a C‑minus. I was disappointed, but not discouraged"); the beginning and end of marriage ("and I remember feeling defeated / at not having a key / to my own wife's apartment"); and myriad lessons about how to live a curious and wholehearted life. "Part of moving yourself forward in a life-giving way," he writes to one of his children, "is to take the things from the past that have helped shape and mold you and use them as anchors to the future." Writing about certain recipes, the author describes when and why he makes them--e.g., "this 7UP pound cake represents family tradition, connection, and love. Now, for the best results, don't go substituting Sprite"; and Granny's hot buttered rolls ("What I'm listening to while I bake: 'Brighter Day' by Kirk Franklin"). Alexander connects disparate forms through his disarmingly forthright, humble voice, familiar vernacular, and optimism. This magnanimous hybrid-form memoir is rich with solace and wisdom. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.