Sharp and thought-provoking, this memoir-meets-cultural criticism upends the romanticism of the Great Plains and the patriarchy at the core of its ideals.
For many Americans, Kansas represents a vision of Midwestern life that is good and wholesome and evokes the American ideals of god, home, and country. But for those like Jessa Crispin who have grown up in Kansas, the realities are much harsher. She argues that the Midwestern values we cling to cover up a long history of oppression and control over Native Americans, women, and the economically disadvantaged.
Blending personal narrative with social commentary, Crispin meditates on why the American Midwest still enjoys an esteemed position in our country’s mythic self-image. Ranging from The Wizard of Oz
to race, from chastity to rape, from radical militias and recent terrorist plots to Utopian communities, My Three Dads
opens on a comic scene in a Kansas rent house the author shares with a (masculine) ghost. This prompts Crispin to think about her intellectual fathers, her spiritual fathers, and her literal fathers. She is curious to understand what she has learned from them and what she needs to unlearn about how a person should be in a family, as a citizen, and as a child of god–ideals, Crispin argues, that have been established and reproduced in service to hierarchy, oppression, and wealth.
Written in Crispin’s well-honed voice–smart, assured, comfortable with darkness–My Three Dads
offers a kind of bleak redemption, the insight that no matter where you go, no matter how far from home you roam, the place you came from is always with you, “like it or not.”