In his new book, Father Deficiency, author Frank Stewart explores the impact of fatherless households on children, their families and society. The book focuses on the concept of Father Deficiency (FD), which Stewart defines as “…when one lacks the necessary things they needed to receive from their father… FD goes beyond just being fatherless but also includes fathers who were present yet absent.” Thus, the children still did not get what they needed. It is within this framework that the author sets forth his thoughts and opinions on the importance to those who have experienced FD of acknowledging how it affected their childhood and how it is affecting their life now, as well as the lives of those around them, especially their loved ones. Stewart contends that FD is not an excuse or a cop out and he offers ways to cope with the condition.
Father Deficiency is firmly rooted in the author’s own journey through life without a father. His father’s accidental death occurred while he was still in his mother’s womb. Over the course of 29 engaging, conversational chapters, Stewart shares the story of his fatherlessness from pain, denial, confusion, anger, and finally breaking away from the negative impact of FD. At the outset of his account Stewart paints a powerful picture of the costs involved in FD. He relies heavily on statistics from the 2008 report of the National Fatherhood Initiative. The organization’s Hundred Billion Dollar Man is the personification of the annual cost to society of this runaway problem which the author claims to be “the greatest plague to ever hit this country.” Coupled with compelling and sometimes startling statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, Stewart compels the reader to begin the journey with him in earnest.
What follows is a universal story of a family without a father figure that many of us may think we have some understanding of even if we are not fatherless or don’t know anyone who is (an increasingly unlikely possibility.) But what the reader will methodically learn is that they really have little, if any understanding of what is a much more destructive and complex problem than we could have ever imagined. Given that complexity, Father Deficiency is a commendable effort to sort out the varied aspects of the problem and present them in a relatable way to readers unfamiliar with FD. And for those readers who have experienced FD, Stewart offers up candid observations and shares his own excitement about his reclamation and self-discovery.
It is important to note that while neither the front cover nor back cover feature it, this book is of the Christian genre. Given the fact that Stewart leaned heavily on a renewed faith in and commitment to Christianity during his acknowledgement and acceptance phases of self-denial, it is a relevant aspect of the story. For me, however, the extensive inclusion of biblical quotes and passages became a distraction. Stewart’s own voice was clear and strong so I ultimately found this to be only a minor issue.
At the end of the book, in what is referred to as the Author Biography but which I found to be more of an Afterword, Frank Stewart proclaims that he believes his purpose in living is to bring awareness to the plague of FD. In Father Deficiency his passion for this pursuit is apparent. He contends that this is a book for everyone, not just teachers and those who work with youth. And upon reflection, I would agree with him.