The author of Raising Supaman, Nathaniel A. Turner, grew up in a tough inner city environment and was once told by a school counselor that his only chance for success in life would be to join the military. Instead, he went on to earn a bachelors degree and two postgraduate degrees. It doesn’t take long to realize this is a book written by someone who beat significant odds and exceeded others’ expectations. Turner shows this same dedication as a father, with the acknowledgement that his relationship with his own father was “toxic and broken” and his self-imposed mandate that his relationship with his son Naeem will be different.
Raising Supaman’s layout is simple; each chapter is a letter the author wrote to his son. The chapters have varying themes and messages to Naeem, and in each case there are questions in the back that seem to be meant to help readers process the chapter and apply the themes involved to themselves.
One thing that will become obvious to readers is that Turner’s son is an accomplished athlete, both in track and soccer. It is from this standpoint that many of the letters are written; to help Naeem visualize and achieve success, learn what it takes to be truly exceptional, and process his mistakes and downfalls. Don’t be too concerned if you’re not a sports fan, because the messages transcend sports.
One of the more compelling things about Raising Supaman is that Turner not only discusses some of his son’s downfalls, but also his own. Several times in his letters, he apologizes for parenting missteps he made in crucial situations. Inherent in these moments is the importance of processing them after the fact. This processing serves to validate to Naeem that he deserved better in those moments, to build better understanding between father and son, and also for Turner to learn from these mistakes and improve as a father.
Two of my favorite chapters are 27 and 34. In 27, Turner breaks from the routine of writing to Naeem and instead writes to his “village” to request that they each send him a meaningful note, poem, or article that could be put into a scrapbook for his son’s 13th birthday. After reading this, I fell in love with the idea and intend to do the same for my son. Chapter 34 is in response to a situation in which Naeem informed a friend’s parents that his friend had expressed suicidal ideation. In doing so, his friend ended the friendship and stopped talking to him. The author’s message to his son is that he did the right thing, and he discusses the suicide of his own friend. In an attempt not to give away too much of the book, I’ll just say that you’ll look forward to the various messages of each chapter, as well as Turner’s unique take on Goldilocks and Three Bears, and his discussion of the Green Sea Turtle.
Although Turner identifies as a motivational speaker, it’s not until the second to last page of Raising Supaman that he actually instructs readers to do anything as a parent. He doesn’t tell readers how to raise their kids or profess to give the reader a magical guide to follow to achieve fatherhood perfection. His instruction is simple: write to your kids. It’s left to the reader to decide the rest, although the author’s ideas will certainly provoke thought about parenting for the reader.
Even for people who already feel they are the perfect parent, they will want to read Raising Supaman for its sheer beauty in documenting the relationship between a loving father and son. However, if anyone out there does hold that belief, I feel they’ve missed the point of this project entirely and although I’m not a betting man, I’d wager that Turner would agree. I’d also wager that anyone who reads Raising Supaman will get something meaningful out of it.
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