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Among the few memories Donald Miller has of his dad is the Christmas Eve he showed up on the back porch with a garbage bag full of unwrapped toys. Then there was a lunch or two. That's it. Donald Miller grew up in a world of women—his mother, sister, and a nearby aunt.
Donald is 34 now, but this best-selling author of Blue Like Jazz has much in common with the current generation of young boys, 40 percent of whom, according to a recent Newsweek report, are being raised without their biological dad. In his latest book, To Own a Dragon (NavPress), Donald explores the unique challenges of a fatherless boyhood. Written with friend and mentor John MacMurray, the memoir vividly depicts the emotional and psychological ramifications of being fatherless and provides snapshots of people who helped him grasp what it means to be a "real" man and accept the love of God the Father.
Donald Miller recently spoke with TCW about the importance of mentors in the lives of fatherless boys, his plan to turn the momentum of To Own a Dragon into a nationwide movement to support single moms and their children, and the best thing his mom ever did for him.
How did growing up without a father affect you?
I felt perpetually out of place, like I didn't belong on the planet. My mom was wonderful, but there was only so much she could do. I remember a pinewood derby my Boy Scout troop held. My mom dropped me off the night we were to build the race cars, trusting that the fathers in the garage making their sons' cars would also help me make mine. They didn't. And I didn't care. I just wanted to goof off anyway. On race night I don't think my car even had wheels on it! Just a lot of WD-40 on the bottom of a block of wood and a stripe down the side like the car from the Dukes of Hazzard. (laughing) I knew I didn't really fit in anywhere, but I didn't connect that with the fact I didn't have a dad.
So when did you start to realize its impact on you?
In my 20s Father's Day became painful for me. I forced myself to go to church that day without my dad, feeling as though God must not love me since he left this out of my life.
I also became increasingly aware of how I'd isolated myself from others. I always thought I was wired to be extremely independent. But the truth is, I was scared. My dad didn't love me. Maybe no one else would, either.
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