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Raising Fences: A Black Man's Love Story

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As a teenager raised in L.A.'s inner city without a father, Michael Datcher had already committed theft, learned the ways of the street, and developed a mortal fear of police. But Datcher had a dream about a very different kind of life - and a second chance to make good on a promise to himself.

280 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2001

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About the author

Michael Datcher

13 books10 followers
Michael Datcher, a journalist and spoken-word poet, has written for Vibe, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and Buzz.
A former Pacific News Service correspondent, Michael Datcher has contributed essays to a number of anthologies.

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5 stars
162 (32%)
4 stars
199 (40%)
3 stars
110 (22%)
2 stars
15 (3%)
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5 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 54 reviews
Profile Image for Sara.
286 reviews3 followers
March 3, 2017
The coming-of-age part of this book was excellent. The author grew up poor and adopted in south Los Angeles, went to UC Berkeley, and became a writer. I savored reading about his experiences, which were so different from mine. This opened a world to me, of Black culture, that I have no experience with. The justifiable anger over the Rodney King beatings; the justifiable anger in general.

I was riveted by his relationship with Camille. But, the last third of the book was a bit boring. The author handles a roach-infested apartment and then plans a wedding (just...not memoir worthy stuff, you know?)

In general, a great book. I'm trying to get woke. This book helped.
Profile Image for tamia.
32 reviews49 followers
March 5, 2009
I attempted to review this book days ago but was stumped. Not because this book was vacuous leaving me nothing to say. Rather because this story of Datcher's life, loss, and love evoked so much emotion and has far reaching implications for my, and many women's, realities.

This book made me feel so hopeful about love relationships between Black men and Black women. As a "single" Black woman in my 30's that statement is magnanimous. Just ask CNN!! Damn Datcher for bringing me "there" ...because hopeful in this respect is a scary place to be.

Typically I'm not NOT a fan of the memoir. I rarely find myself reading anything but pure fiction. However my boyfriend, an amazing Black man in his own right, recommended this book to me telling me that Datcher's story reminded him of me. After reading the book I concur with that sentiment. I also found a lot of my him in Datcher's story as well. I think that's really what he wanted to share with me.

I loved reading this story. It is a love story - the beautiful, the good, the bad, and the ugly - from beginning to end.

Datcher's words & poetry captured the essence of the setting & time period so well. I was right there with him in the 70's, 80's & 90's. He certainly stirred up some memories and emotions in me. Particularly of the Cross Colours, bean pies, & Malcolm X medallion days. Not to mention the art and the music...

To hear Datcher articulate his picket fence dream is healing. To read how he fought long and hard to protect that dream is inspiring. I'll be honest I never thought they [Black men:] dreamed of it too.

Only after reading this do I realize I never even thought to look or ask about "the other side" of the Black male love story. The side that shares in the hopes & dreams of stability & "traditional" family. Whether or not that manifests in my life, it's important to know there are Black men who share those hopes & dreams.

There are many lessons in Datcher's life & story. There is insight & perspective in Raising Fences that is rarely shared. Being inundated with the negative, this story is a must read for a more balanced view.

Thanks MD for sharing.

PS The poetry is phenomenal. My fav moments are V's poem "I'm Raising Children" & the refrain of Michael & Jenoyn's vows that brought me to tears.





Profile Image for Julie  Capell.
992 reviews26 followers
July 25, 2016
The sheer humanity of this book took me unawares. This autobiography of a black man growing up fatherless in America at the end of the last century spoke to me even though I am a white woman with an intact family. The book's descriptions of the racism that people of color live with everyday showed me how insidious this construct is in our society. Because Michael's story is also an Everyman story. He battles inner doubts, bad relationships and poor personal decisions just like all of us. He describes friendships lost and gained, lovers jilted and grasping, relatives absent and faithful. The raw emotions of these descriptions put me on the verge of tears, and that doesn't even count the poems. Real poems by real people, expressing their frustrations, hurts, hopes, and fears, are placed organically throughout the book and provide some of the most moving reading I have ever encountered. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to open his or her heart to another human being. A compelling read.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
277 reviews
March 19, 2012
As a teenager raised in L.A.'s inner city without a father, Michael Datcher had already committed theft, learned the ways of the street, and developed a mortal fear of police. But Datcher had a dream about a very different kind of life - and a second chance to make good on a promise to himself.

This is a true story. Michael's a journalist. His writing is ... outstanding. You're right there with him. This is a very graphic book. If it were a novel, I would call it trash, but...it's about a real life. A good kid, who had a good "moms," and made some "interesting" mistakes, but always had a dream to be a good dad, a faithful husband, and provide for his "family." I wish him well. He's an inspiration.

mk
Profile Image for Tia.
15 reviews
January 25, 2009
I LOVED this book! I would recommend it to everybody, especially black men. Unfortunately, I think the title may not appeal to some male readers which is a real shame. The author did an outstanding job crafting an engaging, insightful, easy read. This story takes a stereotypical situation (babymama drama) but digs so much deeper than your typical "urban tale." Pick up this book and you may find yourself rethinking your preconceived notions about men, relationships and love.
Profile Image for Becca Wilds.
394 reviews6 followers
October 11, 2018
Powerful! A bit memoir, a bit poetry, and a bit confession. This friend pulls no punches in telling his story - this is bravely (uncomfortably?) honest in every way. I can't imagine the amount of vulnerability this must have taken. He owns his own stuff in a way that is very rare in memoir. Most can't avoid the temptation to exaggerate themselves into the hero of their story.

The writing is lyrical and weaves seamlessly between poetry and prose. He dives into the issue of absent fathers with an almost violent tenacity and as a reader I wasnt sure if I wanted to shout "Amen!" or shut the book and go shopping. It is not for the faint of heart - if graphic sex and language offend you - steer clear.

But overall, one of the most fierce things I've read in a long time.
Profile Image for Sue Jackson.
341 reviews4 followers
December 8, 2018
Raising Fences is the story of fatherless black man. Growing up without a male role model made it hard for Datcher to know how to become a good man.. This is a personal account of that struggle. It shows how living in poverty, seeing police brutality, experiencing different kinds of faith, and love were part of that growing process. Poetry is peppered throughout the book which adds to the emotions of his journey. This is an easy and good book to not only see how the author grows but also to make the reader think about their own life journey.
Profile Image for Patrick Anthony.
16 reviews4 followers
February 18, 2018
Timeless love story - Professor Michael Datcher and I both attended UC Berkeley and I have interviewed him a couple times for the Quarterly Black Book Review, Huffington Post and Goodmen Project. Remember reading excerpts to my now-wife of 11 years... and the soul of man is in the book. It is also a classic story of initiation of a boy searching for the man he wants to be. Book could also be titled, "Reinventing Romeo".
Profile Image for Migg.
74 reviews4 followers
February 27, 2018
The memoir of Mr. Datcher is very moving and heart wrenching but inspiring and full of hope for many men out there. I'm hispanic but share some of the elements that Datcher describes when he tells about his uncommon power and courage to push himself out of the conventional boundary that so plagued (and still does today) his (our) generation. A tad tedious to read and follow, but engaging nevertheless.
Profile Image for Maureen.
73 reviews3 followers
April 10, 2021
Datcher does a great job presenting the dichotomy of being a man - a Black man - growing up in a confusing world and trying to make the best choices for him, his family and his future. A very personal story and one worth reading more than once.
Profile Image for Signora .
600 reviews2 followers
March 29, 2022
Touching account of growing up black and fatherless in South Central LA. I liked the earlier years account best...it was a walk down memory lane to walk the streets of Degnan, MLK Blvd, and Leimert Park with Michael Datcher!
Profile Image for Judy .
578 reviews2 followers
February 10, 2017
While the cover states that Datcher's memoir is a "national bestseller", I never heard of the book or the writer before finding it on a library shelf. I'm now so attached to this brilliantly written, amazing book that I am planning to pass my copy through the hands of dozens of people.

The writing is prose and poetry. His story is motivating and daunting. His perceptions of people are genuinely true. He is a born storyteller with a view of life that's worth seeing. I was sad to see this book end.
Profile Image for sydney.
123 reviews8 followers
July 17, 2008
Datcher writes about his lifelong struggle to resist fulfilling stereotypes about black men, particularly in regard to his relationships with women. He is an adopted child born out of his mother's rape, and he works to form mutually loving and respectful relationships with women, avoid becoming an absent father, and shape a personal relationship with his God. This book is an honest account of his life that doesn't make excuses for his missteps and cautiously embraces his successes.

It was illuminating for me as a white woman to read about Datcher's conceptions of himself in the face of stereotypes (especially when he found himself beginning to fall into stereotypical behaviors). But Datcher's work to expose, deconstruct, and fight stereotypes is universal, too.

Datcher's language is electric. He writes like he speaks (taking a couple of opportunities to rail against teaching standard English ("white English," he explains) as proper English, as well). His incorporation of poetry (by himself and his friends and colleagues) is a unique touch and adds to the book's honesty.

Thought-provoking, entertaining, and quick.
Profile Image for Megan.
171 reviews
July 27, 2011
I picked this off my dad's bookshelf, as it was a memoir, my favorite genre. Basically, it chronicles the childhood experiences of growing up in the ghetto and how Michael "got out" by having an intellect that earned him a spot in an out of town "white" school. He speaks of his fears of the ghetto and how he had to conform to fit in, what growing up with only a mom has meant to him as he develops relationships with women, and ultimately how his poetry helps him cope in pursuit of the dream life of raising a family in a picket fence type ideal.
It was an okay story- parts I liked, parts I skimmed over.
Profile Image for Sherri.
113 reviews3 followers
December 29, 2008
I have an older card file with books that I've read and if I liked them or not, but no review is written in it. When I pulled the card for this book out it says..."Excellent book that gives a new perspective" but for the life of me I can't remember much of the book itself. I pulled it out to refresh my memory and I recognize the cover and know I read it but I still don't remember enough to do a review. I'm not sure if that says something about the book or something about my memory! I will definitely need to read this again.
409 reviews2 followers
February 28, 2009
I'm a complete sucker for memoir, so I really enjoyed this. It's so cool to look inside someone else's head and heart. The author, raised without a father, and in surroundings where none of his peers have visible fathers either, is determined not to have children out of wedlock. The first two thirds of the book intercuts between childhood memories and his relationship with a woman who becomes pregnant, and is quite suspenseful. The last third of the book drags a bit, but it's still worth the read.
19 reviews
June 2, 2011
This book is an extraordinary peek into one Black man's heart and soul. Recommended for Black men who think no one else "gets" it and for Black women who want to understand where some of the pain is coming from. In fact, I've bought copies for some male friends and relatives.
Datcher has loved and lost, come to the crossroads of criminal life or academia, and questioned himself along the way. He is so determined to make the right choices that you ache for any false move.
It is an amazing love story indeed - love of a woman, love of words and poetry, and love of self.
Profile Image for The Urban Book Source.
174 reviews30 followers
August 8, 2012
Raising Fences, a memoir, brings you on a tour through the life of an enduring Black man, while staying clear of the pimp-esque bravado. Datcher, born to a single mother who births him after being raped, but is given up for adoption, develops an obsession of being a great husband and father early in his life. Taken through his struggles with self-identity, female relationships, financial hardships, Datcher hides nothing, and tells all. If you are looking for a book that will do away with the Black man "playa" myth, this one is for you. A great poetic read from cover to cover.
1 review
March 21, 2014
This memoir was very ambitious, as Datcher had much to tell us. However, it's composition seemed forced, like a list of anecdotes relating to the central themes of the African American identity, masculinity, and fatherhood, just without any transition. Datcher's packing of key internal struggles and development did his story an injustice. With 100 more pages I would have loved to watch him delve deeper into some of his character developments. Overall, a solid read.
Profile Image for Kim.
339 reviews
August 31, 2007
This was the most unusual book I've read in a long time and I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. It was wonderful to escape and learn about another culture that exists under my nose. As a white woman, I obvioulsy will never fully understand, but I found this book very powerful and thought provoking. It would have made a fantastic book group book.
Profile Image for Keelyn Healy.
Author 1 book
August 12, 2007
This is a friend's work. I'm not just flattering him because he's a friend, but because he's an amazing poet,person,and memoir writer. I used this book all the time when I was tutoring and teaching. He speaks the blunt truth with so much depth, soul, and lyrical precision. This story is meaningful and thought provoking.
Profile Image for Steve.
67 reviews
December 15, 2009
i got this as a bargain book from B & N, but i really liked it. the author points out, in this true account, the reality for black men and their seeming inability to maintain any type of healthy relationship (with women and especially children)...it becomes a mission of his to go against the stereotypical and rise above it. the resulting story is pretty amazing. a good book.
2 reviews6 followers
April 14, 2008
Urban voice is how I would decribe Michael Datcher's storytelling. Datcher is a young black man coming to grips with what that has meant historically and, more introspectively for him, it appears, what it can mean to him. His story reads honestly and provides insight into what some of us can never be.
Profile Image for Kelly.
53 reviews4 followers
March 17, 2009
I absolutely loved this book. It's a great story about believing in love, overcoming the odds, following your dreams. His dream is such a simple one -- to be a good husband and father and have a functional family -- and yet he has to overcome overwhelming odds to achieve it. I also found it fascinating and also terrible to read about what it is like for a good kid to grow up in an LA ghetto.
1 review
October 15, 2010
I really enjoyed reading this book because it was inspiring, and uplifting. The main character had a tough life starting out, because he had issues dealing with the fact that he was adopted, and he had troubles trusting men, because he was raised by a single mother. He fought through alot proving that no matter how tough life is, that shouldn't stop you from reaching your goals and aspirations.
Profile Image for Misshaq.
26 reviews7 followers
November 28, 2010
One of my favorite books. I love it. A good friend recommended this to me. The author, Michael Datcher, writes so honestly about his life, and how his experiences shaped him and his ideas of love. He also explores religion and spirituality. And it has a great and happy ending! Great book, a real page turner.
November 29, 2010
As a Black men I could relate to this book on many levels. It brought me back to many different parts of my life. The book also served a lens through which I could currently evaluate the decisions that I am making about how to live my life right now. I would recommend it to anyone interested in getting an authentic view of the challenges and triumphs of black men in this country.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 54 reviews

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