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Donald Miller: To Own a Dragon

When Donald Miller was a toddler, his father abandoned him. Now 34, the author of the bestselling "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality" (Nelson, 2003), describes his struggle in his fourth book, "To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father" (NavPress, Feb.). Miller co-wrote it with nature photographer John MacMurray, whose family Miller lived with for four years.

RBL: Where did you get the title of the book?

Miller: It’s from a metaphor used in the first chapter. Basically the idea of having a father is as foreign to me as owning a dragon. It’s a mythical creature that you read about.

RBL: In your other books you wrote at least some about growing up without a father. Why did you devote this one exclusively to the topic?

Miller: I wanted to write a book that people growing up without dads could identify with and also find hope in. Some publishers told me it was a bad move now because it was too specific a market.

RBL: How has being fatherless shaped you and your faith?

Miller: I grew up assuming that I wasn’t really wanted by society, that authority was bad—authority was a negative—or a force that was against me. I also wondered for many years whether I was a man, not gender-wise but in a poetic sense. Guys that grew up without a dad have no authority figure in their lives that loves them. You learn to hate authority. And I assumed that God didn’t want me, that God loving me was an incredible burden for me.

RBL: Where are you now?

Miller: Getting into writing the book, I realized the issue is still very much alive and very painful. Writing it was a healing experience. I don’t think I’m over it, but I’ve come a long way.

RBL: What does your mother think about the book?

Miller: She enjoyed reading it, and I think she was probably pretty proud. She was spoken well of in the book.

RBL: What is your vision for fatherless men becoming “wounded healers”?

Miller: I got that quote from Bishop Tutu when he addressed the people of South Africa about the issue of apartheid. He said because you have been a victim, you have authority. I was beginning to play the arrogant victim card, and when I read that quote, I felt I should become a wounded healer rather than an arrogant victim. The lesson is to learn, come out of that, grow and then turn around and teach others because now you have experience.

RBL: What book projects do you have in the works?

Miller: I’m working on a book called A Map of Eden, which is a biography of a performance artist who, with his art, brings to life social justice issues and calls people to action. Thomas Nelson will publish that