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Geek Parenting is a golden ticket to the nerd zeitgeist

Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz’s book takes advice from pop-cultural touchstones and oddities alike

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In a recent NPR interview, actor Rainn Wilson bemoaned the commodification of nerdism, but acknowledged that because he is a nerd, the trend has helped his career. The new book Geek Parenting: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent and The McFlys Teach Us About Raising a Family (Quirk Books) confirms Wilson’s observations, but not necessarily because nerds are the newly anointed cool. In fact, this happy little book makes us realize nerds have been in our pop-culture hearts all along, and that we are among them. Drawing upon the allegory-rich landscape of comic books, movies, television, cartoons and science fiction, Geek Parenting concerns the complexity of family.

The authors, former Pittsburgh Magazine editor Stephen H. Segal and fellow geek Valya Dudycz Lupescu, share a deep knowledge of pop culture. (Segal co-authored 2011’s Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teaching of Nerd Culture.) They have meticulously extracted advice for mothers, fathers, siblings, twins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, step-siblings, stepmothers and fathers, family black sheep and family favorites. Bite-sized essays draw on “the most beloved tales of geek culture,” from a 1905 Little Nemo comic strip, to illustrate managing nightmares, to Game of Thrones, to reinforce the importance of pets (even if they are ancient wolves).

Characters from relatively obscure works like Donnie Darko illustrate handling a child’s emotional challenges. The Walkman housing Guardian of the Galaxy’s Peter Quill’s connection to his mother is about sharing our own cultural touchstones. Dr. Evil’s attempts to bond with his son show us that parenting can be a bitch.

But you need not have memorized plots from Battlestar Galactica or believe in werewolves — or even be parents, for that matter. Family is rife with suffering and ecstasy, so aligning your journey with those of harrowing protagonists like Maleficent works like a spell.

Geek Parenting is a golden ticket to the nerd zeitgeist.

Devout geeks will get Dr. Who references and appreciate the wisdom of Princess Mononoke. Chapters like “They Need Discipline to Do Their Homework — Even If That Means Exiling Them to a Fortress of Solitude” and “If You Always Harp on What They Are Doing Wrong, You’re Teaching Them to Focus on the Dark Side” will give you strength the next time you pick up action figures strewn on the floor.

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