PP: My kids call me Baba, also Babi (I choose to mentally spell it that way, otherwise it's the youngest kid from the Brady Bunch, and I wasn't prepared for that). In our familial bunch we have living: me, my partner, a daughter, a son, a kitty named Mrs. Mooney. (Do you know the musical Sweeny Todd? "Mrs. Mooney had a pie shop" goes the first half of the line. Then there's more ("popping pussies into pies" is another refrain. It's kind of about reclaiming one's power.) In the ether, and always always in my heart: Maxi, the dog that helped me back from the coldest place I've known.
RR: In a good interview, readers find out things about you that they can't find out on your website. To that end,
I must ask: what's best snack ever?
PP: Hmm. I'll have to think about that. A friend plops salsa in a bowl with cottage cheese, and then scoops it up w/ tortilla chips. That works pretty nicely. With more time, a quesadilla with just about anything in it (in the cheese and vegetable dept) is always a hit. My mom made a dip with cream cheese and chutney, and so that, scooped with Wheat Thins, reminds me of her. Making it a heavy duty contender for "best."
RR: Could you talk about a few favorite books or authors?
PP: Gosh. I've read so little since the kids came along that many of these will be people I came to love before becoming a parent. Joan Didion got me to fall in love with the sentence, the essay, the mind as it weaves itself around the task of conveying essential truths with the written word. Thereafter also, authors I love, in no particular order: Virginia Woolf. Paule Marshall. Sarah Schulman. Audre Lorde. Adrienne Rich. Pablo Neruda. Mary Oliver. David Gutterson. If I started trying to name favorite books I'm afraid I'd get myself in trouble. Though I do want to say that Adrienne Rich's "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying" is an enormous gift. As is most of her poetry. Audre Lorde's essays account for most of my proper awareness of the world. Sarah Schulman, in Rat Bohemia, accomplished something amazing. I think if every family member of every LGBTQ person read it, lots would be different. Or could be. What can one say about Didion? Except when poet Gary Soto asked me to read her Slouching Towards Bethlehem in a high school enrichment class, it changed my life.
PP: Dear me. Too much of it, I fear. Or maybe just enough. In college (UC Berkeley) I majored in English (minored in Ethnic Studies) and tutored writing and led writing workshops. In grad school (Minnesota), I taught composition as well as Women's Studies and American Studies. The original idea was to get me a Ph.D. in American Studies (Feminist Studies minor) and become a professor somewhere, but plans kind of shifted (that's a whole interview in itself). I did leave with an M.A. and a life partner, though. Not too shabby.
RR: When you first started the blog Lesbian Dad what was your mission and how has it changed over time? What do you hope to deliver to your audience?
PP: Great question! Initially, I wanted to work out some ideas about what a "lesbian fatherhood" might be, if indeed there was one. At the least, I wanted to find company in the fairly specific parental place I felt I existed: a lesbian co-parent who was socially & not biologically connected to her kids (where the partner was bio), and one who chafed at "mother," for a host of reasons, most of which gender identity-related. A blog provided a venue in which to think out loud about these things and gather people around me who knew better and could school me (and anyone who listened). I actually first thought it would be a kind of a discussion forum that I would merely moderate, but I soon discovered that -- news to me -- it's fairly easy to launch a solo blog, and people who wanted to talk a LOT about the subject of their parenthoods tend start their own blogs. I didn't have the energy or the time at the outset to begin as a group project, and that might have made a difference, too. Also, I discovered that many other people prefer to converse and comment in response to another's catalyst, and are happy with that degree of contribution.
PP: Great question! (I suspect I'll preface all my answers to these questions this way.) It's like my epistolary voice (!), but public. Which makes it some kind of cross between my most informal, breezy writing in letters to friends and a polished essay. Probably both writerly voices appear (formal and informal), depending on the subject matter. Blogging is unusual, for certain, in the degree to which it is public, instantaneously, and a dialog as well. I've written in some public venues (academic essays for journals or anthologies, op-ed pieces, a personal essay in Confessions), but feedback on that stuff comes so slowly. And it's not even really part of the form, that it anticipate dialog from readers. At most, I'd bump into someone at an academic conference, say, and hear they were using an essay of mine in a class. Or find, after the advent of the World Wide Internet, that someone was referring to an essay.
of course with blogs, the impact is instant. Most exciting is that it
is for the most part supposed to be a conversation! A blog is a DIALOG,
not a MONOLOG. ALL CAPS, BABY. That is a thrill, and what so much
writing (tacitly) aspires to. Or rather, I'll say that I would always
want my own writing to spark some kind of dialog. It's a privilege to
be able to hear that dialog going on, and even be a part of it.
RR: What are your favorite children's books (yours and opposed to our kids')?
PP: Hmmm. There's a crop of books that touched me as a kid, and then some that I like as a parent. From my own childhood, I'd still say Winnie the Pooh is a sentimental favorite. The kids aren't old enough for Harriet the Spy yet, but I can't wait. A number of more obscure ones just happen to touch cords of memory, like Tico and the Golden Wing, for example.
that's an interesting one. Mmmm. Well I'm not sure this is as strange
as it is interesting to me. I've realized that I am connected to so
very many very different people, by virtue of our common parenthood.
The simple fact that we both are parents to children provides a point
of contact that would never otherwise have been there. Experiencing
that has been really a phenomenal, fairly unexpected part of becoming a
parent. Totally didn't anticipate that, and -- other than the
incredible experience of witnessing the development/ self-realization
of two different human beings -- it may well be the best thing about
RR: You've won a number of awards for Lesbian Dad. What do you think the blog offers its readers?
I would have had a harder time answering this question if I'd have
responded before the results from my reader survey came rolling in, or
before I went to BlogHer and got a wider sense of women's communities
online. But now I can do more than speculate. I
would have initially thought that a blog like Lesbian Dad might keep people
like me company -- offering the betwixt/between gals an example of
someone else who was parenting from this gendered standpoint
(both/and) and doing just fine. I might have hoped that it would also
offer straight readers an opportunity to listen in on our
I've been very pleasantly surprised that a lot of folks just like good
writing for its own sake. Great news, eh? For its own sake. Gives
us all something to strive for.
RR: Would you like to add a question that I haven't asked?
PP: What fun! Gosh. Well, the first thing that occurs to me is a question that I asked folks in the survey I did in a recent survey of readers, which was essentially: What do you get from the online communities of which you are a part? To which I'd answer: so much, and so much more than I would have expected! I feel like I've had the opportunity to learn how many commonalities there are across lesbian and lesbian parenting experiences in different countries (in the UK at least, and Australia).
Also, I've come to consider that we really can help one another a great deal using this medium. Being able to carry on a conversation across such distances and so many differences, all mediated not by publishing conglomerates, or limited by physical logistics (how long it takes to get a letter from here to there, much less gather multiple voices into it). We're still limited by human emotion -- the ease with which we can misunderstand each other, peoples' tendencies to gather into clumps of like groups. And online spaces are definitely communities, governed by etiquette and expectations and so on. It's easy to only learn these things after inadvertently stepping on toes. But what we can do with and for each other in this realm is so worth it. I think the community building you do is probably the best example of that.