When his first child entered the teen years, Tomas Moniz started looking for good ways to approach the difficult lessons that were coming. Knowing that “just don’t do it” is not an adequate strategy for issues like pornography and drugs, and finding advice in the mainstream media too domineering, the longtime member of zine culture reached out to the people around him.
“I can write. I can ask people to write with me,” he said recently at Borderlands Books, “and I can discover different ways to live communally, to parent and relate to one another. Ultimately I put out the call because I couldn’t find much out there, especially around fathering.”
The result was Rad Dad, a DIY zine that is now in its ninth year. Dedicated to radical parenting, it became instantly popular for its nontraditional stories and hands-on approach.
“The reason I think people enjoy and resonate with Rad Dad is because it’s really been about the mistakes we make. It’s what we aspire to be,” he says.
Moniz encourages others to write for the publication, which is filled with candid questions and advice from parents that reflect a wide array of experiences. “I think that’s really the beauty of it,” he said. “It’s a conversation.”
Moniz became a parent when he was 20, and he says he realized that his own writing was becoming more and more about the topic. With three children (now 23, 18 and 16), he knew it wasn’t going to become a smaller part of his life any time soon, so he dedicated himself to the zine as to his children, using the forum to learn and to share what he learned.
Rad Dad has always been self-funded, with Moniz biking copies to local proprietors and appearing at all local zine fests. His passion and open demeanor have made him recognizable enough that he sometimes gets asked: “Hey, aren’t you that rad dad?” When with his kids, he says, he asks a little too loudly: “Why don’t we ask these guys?”
“It’s an action, not a label,” he says. “It’s never something you can say, like, ‘I’m a rad dad and now I’m set.’ It’s something you do every day – even when you don’t have your kids.”
Moniz teaches creative writing at Berkeley City College, where he’s worked for 13 years. He’s also managed to continue his own writing, and is involved in the literary scene, co-hosting the monthly Lyrics & Dirges at Pegasus Books and Saturday Night Special at Nick’s Lounge, both in Berkeley. Recently, Black Hill Press published his novella, “Bellies and Buffaloes.”
With his two oldest kids already out of the house, and the youngest not far behind, Moniz is also beginning to contemplate life after Rad Dad.
“There’s been a lot of personal change,” he said, “so letting go of things is I think symbolically happening on multiple levels.”
Looking to turn the zine into a collective effort, he’s just redesigned and expanded it, for its 25th issue, into a full-size magazine. It’ll be published three times a year.
“People are putting out really awesome ideas that aren’t reflected in the mainstream discussions about parenting,” he said. “I think it’s really important to have that space out there. I’m a better father because of it, reading these stories. Reminding myself that I’m not alone, that you can get through it and you can be a better person because of it.”
IF YOU GO
Rad Dad Relaunch Celebration: 7-9 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 6). Free. Adobe Books, 3130 24th St., S.F. Also 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Berkeley Farmers Market, Center Street, Berkeley. Also 7:30-9 p.m. Arlene Francis Center, 99 Sixth St., Santa Rosa.
Photo by Tomas Moniz