Unlike The Unhappy Wife book, Daddy is not written by me. This anthology includes stories written by women, who felt it important to publicly re-tell narratives centered on their relationship with their father. Each woman’s purpose is similar, yet different. Every Friday, I invite you to read about their reason why.
Today, meet S.R. Toliver, author of “Trial by Father.”
Why were you inspired to contribute to this book? I have always had a strained relationship with my father, but I was never able to talk about it until a couple of years ago. Therapy helped. It was in therapy sessions that I realized what I felt was valid. It was in therapy that I learned that I’m not responsible for the way I was treated, and that it was okay for me to let go of my father because he was the cause of my anxiety. After being able to talk about it, I felt like the next step was to write about it. There might be a young girl who is dealing with some of the same issues that people don’t want to talk about, and maybe by my speaking about it, they’ll know that they aren’t alone.
What is your father-daughter relationship like now? I completely cut my father off about two years ago. I had a major anxiety attack the summer before I began my Ph.D. program, and I couldn’t figure out why. What I realized later, though, was that it was because my father had been in the same space, something that I’ve avoided (physically by not being around or mentally by drinking). There’s so much trauma that I experienced when he was around that it started to manifest physically. I just didn’t know that it was called an anxiety attack until then. I’ve been much happier now that I don’t speak to him or see him.
If there is one thing you could tell women who struggle with “daddy issues” what would it be? It’s not your fault. You father’s issues don’t define who you are or who you have become. They don’t have to guide your life. If it’s hard for you to see that, like it was hard for me, then therapy can work wonders. Don’t be afraid to seek help from outside voices.
If there is one thing you could tell men with daughters what would it be? They are bombarded by images that constantly tell them they aren’t enough. They are consistently told that they aren’t deserving of love. They don’t need to hear the same messages from you.
What do you hope your story accomplishes? I hope that it opens up discussions about the ways fathers can place unnecessary burdens on their daughters. I want there to be conversations about how toxic masculinity can cause fathers to question and judge their daughters rather than questioning the society that oversexualizes them before they begin to acknowledge their own sexuality or sexual identity.
What are you working on currently? I always tell my friends that Storm (from the X-Men) saved my life. I say this because I always looked to her as a pillar of strength even when the whole world hated her just for existing. My Ph.D. work centralizes science fiction for this reason. Reality can be burdensome and harsh, and although it is necessary to acknowledge, sometimes Black girls need dreams to hold onto instead of reality.
S.R. Toliver is pursuing a PhD in language and literacy education at the University of Georgia. Her current research is based in the critical tradition, analyzing young adult literature and literacy pedagogies in an effort to promote social justice and equity in education. She can be reached on Twitter: @SR_Toliver.
A portion of the book’s proceeds will be contributed to an organization important to Toliver, Black Girls Code. The owner hopes to “provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”