Lyrics & Dirges: new Berkeley reading series

For the last five years, Berkeley writer Tomas Moniz has been putting out Rad Dad, a zine that combines his take on fathering with musings about gender, race, class, politics, and other aspects of society.

His drawings and discussions on how to parent in a world that often espouses values of domination and elitism have brought him a steady following. After self-publishing 18 issues, his newest zine, his 19th, will be published by Microcosm Publishing. They plan to increase the print run from 300 to 1,000 — an indication that they feel Moniz can build an even larger audience.

“I try and write grounded in my experience in parenting and working with children to create community,” said Moniz, 41, who teaches English at Berkeley City College. “I try and make it fun and engaging, but try to weave in some sort of social analysis and critique.”

In 2009, Utne Magazine named Rad Dad the best zine of the year in its 2009 Utne Reader Independent Media Awards. In handing out the trophy, the judges commented on the diversity of viewpoints expressed in the magazine.


“Mainstream media can’t stop talking about parenting. Parents turned pundits and pseudo experts score book deals, print op-eds, and show up on morning talk shows and the evening news to share anecdotes, cite studies, and push products,” wrote Utne judges.

“These bloviators are also overwhelmingly white, straight, and middle class. That’s why Tomas Moniz’s deeply felt zine Rad Dad is such a vital addition to the parenting lexicon: He brings together voices that are asking different questions and telling different stories about what it means to be a parent in a fractured, unequal, consumerist society. Rad Dad’s contributors are queer parents, parents of color, radical feminist parents, parents who are redefining what family means.”

Moniz (upper left) with his three children

Moniz is now trying to extend into Berkeley the sense of community he has built up with his zine. Along with writers M.K. Chavez and Sharon Coleman, he has originated a new monthly reading series at downtown Pegasus Books that will bring together new and experienced writers. The next reading is Wednesday Oct. 20 at 7:30 pm and features writers Sarah Fran Wisby, Maw Shein Win, James Cagny, Shanthi Sekaran, and Alena Hairston.

The series, titled Lyrics & Dirges, will be less formal than most of the readings in the East Bay, where authors stand in front of an audience and deliver information, said Moniz. He hopes they are more of a conversation, not only between the audience and the writers, but the writers themselves.

“It’s kind of like a party in a bookstore that’s not so serious,” said Moniz, who has three teenagers, a son and two daughters.

Moniz wants to bring in new writers to read and asks that anyone who is interested email him at tomas.moniz@gmail.com. Pegasus Books is located at 2349 Shattuck Avenue.