Our 497th Dad in the Limelight is Richard Katrovas. I want to thank Richard for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing him with all of you.
1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
RICHARD KATROVAS, author of Raising Girls in Bohemia: Meditations of an American Father: A Memoir in Essays
I was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1953, and spent my first seven years on the roads and highways of America as my father committed petty crimes and was wanted, eventually, in 47 states by the FBI. He was caught in Florida, and my mother and four siblings and I lived for three years in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on welfare. My father was paroled three years later, and continued his criminal ways. He was caught a year later and my family subsequently lived in the projects of Norfolk, Virginia, on welfare. While living in the projects, my mother contracted multiple sclerosis. Relatives adopted a brother and me when I was thirteen, and we moved to Sasebo, Japan, for three years. I earned a second-degree black belt in sho-bu-kan Okinawa-te karate in Sasebo.
I received a BA in English from San Diego State University, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I was a Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia. I taught for twenty years at the University of New Orleans, and have taught for the past twelve at Western Michigan University. On a Fulbright Fellowship, I witnessed Prague’s Velvet Revolution in 1989. I founded the Prague Summer Program in 1993, and have directed the PSP ever since. I’m the author of fourteen books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. My poems, stories and essays have appeared in scores of the best literary journals and anthologies. I’ve received numerous grants and awards.
2) Tell me about your family
I spoke of my original family answering your first question. Regarding the family I’ve made, I have three very bright, big-hearted, pretty, Czech-American daughters. Ema turns twenty-four in August. She’s earning her Masters at the Prague Conservatory of Music, and is beginning her professional career as an opera singer (she recently transitioned from mezzo to soprano). Carnegie Mellon University Press published her translations of the marvelous Czech poet Pavel Srut several years ago. Her translations and original stories have been published in several quite good venues. At fifteen she published a personal essay in Lidove Noveny, the most respected culture magazine in the Czech Republic. Annie, eighteen in November, is finishing high school online, and is probably one of the three or four coolest persons on the planet. Ellie, nine, is extremely bright and loquacious. She’s 5’2”, and Czech doctors predict that she’ll shoot past 6’. Of course I dream of a basketball or volleyball scholarship. She will attend fourth grade in Kalamazoo this year.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
The biggest challenge has been parenting on two continents. The girls have racked up more frequent-flyer miles than most grizzled business mavens.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Don’t subcontract the major parenting role to your parenting partner, and don’t ever forget that divorce, or any sort of separation from your partner, does not render her or him any less a partner, someone to whom you owe allegiance and respect.
5) How have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
Precariously. Though I don’t really perceive an “outside life” relative to parenting. I subsumes, or should, everything.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
From my stepfather, a navel officer who was as right-wing as anyone I’ve every known, I’ve learned to engage with and listen to my daughters. He would sit at the diner table and talk to my brother and me for an hour or two almost every night. We disagreed about everything, but he taught me by example to disagree gracefully, and I’ve tried to pass that along to my daughters.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
At the risk of seeming glib, I’ll simply say that everything I know and feel on this subject is in my new book, Raising Girls in Bohemia: Meditations of an American Father: A Memoir in Essays
(pub. date: October 14, Three Rooms Press. New York: 2014).
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
I’ll refer you to answer # 7!
If you have any questions for Richard, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!