…this book is about how parents can create lasting and meaningful bulwarks between their kids and the violence endemic in our culture. It posits discipline without spanks or slaps or threats of violence, while considering how to raise thoughtful, compassionate, fearless young people committed to social and political change — without scaring, hectoring or scarring them with all the wrongs in the world.
This week we got a chance to talk with Frida Berrigan, author of It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing into Rebellious Motherhood. Frida serves on the board of the War Resistors League, a founder of Witness Against Torture, and writes the Little Insurrections blog for Waging Nonviolence. She is about to start a midwest book tour. Details below.
Radical Discipleship: What is this book about in 2 sentences?
Frida Berrigan: It Runs In The Family is part memoir/ part nowmoir. It tells the story of growing up in a christian community of nonviolent resistance and radical precarity and then pivots to a series of reflections on trying to parent from a place of patience and nonviolence while holding on an identity as an activist.
RD: For parents out there who are part of movement work, what do you hope this book will offer?
FB: Perspective. I think we try to do it all. I know I try– even now (and even after having written this book). It is hard to slow down, hard to take a back seat for a while, hard not to worry that if you leave the driver’s seat, you’ll never get back there. The message of the book is: it is okay to let parenting be your main job for a little while. And then I struggle with that alot even though my hand’s are completely full with two little kids and an 8 year old step-daughter, and you can see that throughout the book (and in the second part of my answer below).
The kid’s are alright. Parents who are activists worry that their commitments will mess their kids up. Parents who are activists are told (often very explicitly) that their commitments to other peoples’ kids will mess up their kids… My experience having super-committed parents says otherwise. Kids respect parents who do more than just live for their kids (and the weekend).
RD: Is this book also for folks who are not parents? How?
FB: Yes. Because we were all parented and we all have stories about that and the book encourages people to reflect on how they were taught to care and commit. By their parents? By others? How? When? And also, because the book is funny (and non-prescriptive) and there are lots of good stories in it.
FB: She is proud of it. She had minor date related changes to make to earlier drafts. As far as I know, it has not provoked her to write a rebuttal or her own memoir.
Dates for Midwest Book Tour
Monday, February 2nd
7pm, University of Detroit Mercy
UDM’s McNichols Campus, Life Sciences 113
4001 W McNichols (at Livernois), Detroit, MI 48221
Thursday, February 5th
3019 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Friday, February 6th
Noon, Eighth Day Center
205 W. Monroe, Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60606
Saturday, Februay 7th,
5pm, House Party
Sunday, February 8th
10:30, St. Nicholas
806 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL 60202
Oldershaw Hall, after the 9:00 Mass
Frida Berrigan serves on the board of The War Resisters League, a 90-year-old pacifist organization, and helped to found Witness Against Torture, a nonviolent direct action group focused on shutting down Guantánamo and ending torture. She long served as a researcher at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative in New York City, writing and speaking on the topic of militarism. She lived at the New York Catholic Worker before moving to New London, CT with her husband Patrick Sheehan-Gaumer. Patrick is a social worker, second-generation peace activist and father to their 7-year-old daughter Rosena Jane. Their son Seamus Philip was born in July 2012 and Frida became a stay-at-home mom. Their daughter Madeline Vida was born in February 2014. While the baby naps or plays, she writes the “Little Insurrections” blog for Waging Nonviolence, tends a few plots at the community garden and helps keep a busy household on its toes.