Michael Datcher- 2004
Author of multiple titles including New York Times Bestseller Raising Fences
Rebuilding Black Men
By Lamaida Lopez
At a young age, children tend to build their own hopes and dreams without experiencing much of life itself. Children are constantly asked what career they would want to pursue in the future or what goals they want to accomplish. The goals people build in their head as a kid tend to change as they get older but for others, one dream can shape the rest of their lives. Michael Datcher, an acclaimed author, poet, and journalist, was one of those kids who had a specific dream as a child. Datcher wanted no more than to grow up and have a family of his own with a woman he truly loved. The idea of growing up in a household with two loving parents was not quite common in the neighborhood Datcher grew up in. Since many of the children’s fathers were absent, mothers had to step up and play both roles. Society today has normalized the idea that most African American families do not consist of a father and has continued to categorize and label them. It is time to stand up and throw away society's cliche views. In Michael Datchers novel, “Raising Fences: A Black Man’s Love Story”, he writes about his accomplishments in life as well as the struggles of surviving through the stereotypes of a young African American man.
Michael Datcher had many dreams and plans for his future. Many of the novels published by Datcher are based on the accounts of young African American males. In the author's writings, he tries his best to tell stories that could expand the knowledge people have on males especially those of the African American community. In his novel, “Raising Fences”, is based on his personal life. The novel begins with Datcher receiving a letter in the mail containing his birth certificate. When reading the certificate, Datcher had come across the information regarding his father. All the boxes were filled with blanks and unknowns. Datcher really did not know anything about his biological father. Part of this is because he barely even knew his own mother. Datcher’s biological mother was raped at the age of 16. Instead of keeping him, she decided it would be best to let Datcher be adopted by a family friend. Growing up, the author never had a father figure, in fact he viewed men at a lower standard. Because of this, he decided he would be different from the stereotypical African American absentee father. He dreamt of being a father and husband at a very young age, but that is all you can do at the age of 7, dream. According to Datcher, “Quiet as it's kept, many young black men have the same obsession. Picket-fence dreams (8). To have a family and to build that fence around his own house was all he ever wanted. Fences were built to keep out men similar to Datcher rejecting them from participating in activities along with places. From being rejected from society to not being able to do things many white Americans are able to, it was clear there had to be a change. So instead of being kept out by fences for most of his life, his goal is to build his own fence that no longer keeps him out, but that surrounds his accomplishments in life.
There is no better way to understand what the African American community goes through than to learn about it through the words of Datcher himself. In 2001, Datcher had participated in an interview conducted by Connie Martison. In this interview, her questions were based on his “Raising Fences” novel. The interviewer discussed the events in his life that caused him to decide to write his own memoir. “...the book is about searching for belonging and acceptance, and having difficulties finding love” (Martison). Datcher wants the readers to understand difficulties young black men have with finding love, not only with a partner, but with family as well. At a young age, he had found out he was adopted which really changed how he viewed himself. Being accepted was hard when you do not know who exactly you are or who your parents are. As he got older, he began to live his own life and accomplish many things like attending college at the University of California at Berkeley and the Los Angeles campus as well. Although he was successful educational wise, life was still hard. In a biography written about Datcher, it states, “Despite the educational opportunities he enjoyed, Datcher was still pulled down by negative forces in his life” (“Contemporary Black”). Datcher was becoming very successful in life till he found out he had impregnated a woman who he did not love during his time at college. This forced the author to start drinking and becoming a college dropout. He was at his lowest point because the man he never wanted to be; he was turning into. A year after the child was born, Datcher was given a second chance because blood tests came back revealing that he was not the father. This second chance he was given allowed him to get into poetry and having his articles in magazines, revealing his love of writing. While discovering his love for writing, he also was able to find love in a woman he could build a life with and build that fence he always dreamt about. Much of the author's life experiences is depicted in his novels that not only points out his struggles, but the struggles that many African Americans continue to go through. Datcher has shown that being African American comes with its struggles, but it is never too late to conquer them.
Through his writings, Datcher has inspired many African American males to get past the stereotypes that society has given them and to overcome any obstacles they come across to pursue their dreams. Researching Michael Datcher has changed the way I view many authors. Many authors do not write their books in a first-person point of view but rather a third-person point of view. However, Michael Datcher had written this novel in his point of view and I believe this helps readers better understand the struggles that the African American community goes through. Reading about this author's life and accomplishments really impacted the way I view stereotypes. When people put others in certain stereotypical categories, that can really impact how they view themselves and what actions they might take in the future. The best way to overcome these stereotypes is to prove everyone wrong and succeed on your own like Michael Datcher did.
Beason, Tyson. “Michael Datcher’s Dream Is Surrounded by ‘Fences’ | the Seattle Times.” Archive.seattletimes.com, archive.seattletimes.com/archive/?date=20010324&slug=fences24. Accessed 8 Feb. 2021.
Datcher, Michael. Michael Datcher. Michaeldatcher.com/about/.
“Raising Fences: A Black Man’s Love Story.” Www.scribd.com, www.scribd.com/read/399002639/Raising-Fences-A-Black-Man-s-Love-Story?mode=standard. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Datcher, Michael. “Michael Datcher Interview, 2001.” The Claremount Colleges Digital Library, 2001, ccdl.claremont.edu/digital/collection/cmt/id/720/rec/1.