About UBS UBS Vision and Core Purpose UBSi News Give Us Feedback

Lehigh University Bookstore Hosts
'Go the F--- to Sleep' Author

On Monday evening, best-selling author Adam Mansbach visited the Lehigh University Bookstore’s café for a book reading and signing. Lynn Olanoff of The Express-Times was at the event and shares her perspective below.

'Go the F--- to Sleep' author speaks at Lehigh University in Bethlehem
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011, 4:34 AM Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011, 7:04 AM
By Lynn Olanoff | The Express-Times

Most of the crowd inside Lehigh University’s bookstore Monday didn’t have any kids, but they still laughed along anyway at Adam Mansbach’s struggles of putting his 2-year-old daughter to bed.

“I’ll read you one very last book if you swear you’ll go the f--- to sleep,” Mansbach read from his bestselling book “Go the F--- to Sleep.”

“I don’t think I read the book as well as Samuel L. Jackson,” Mansbach said of the bestselling audio version. “The audio book was probably his best work since ‘Pulp Fiction.’”

Lehigh University Director of Africana Studies Program James Peterson is a longtime friend of Mansbach’s and brought him to the Bethlehem school to speak to his “Autobiography in Hip-Hop Culture” class. Mansbach’s “Angry Black White Boy” is one of the best of the genre, Peterson said, but most at Monday’s presentation were interested in the book that made Mansbach famous, a short illustrated book he describes as a children’s book for adults.

It started as a joke, Mansbach said. After a particularly tough night putting his 2-year-old daughter to bed, Mansbach posted on Facebook, “Look out for my forthcoming children’s book," and tapped out the title. The status was a hit with his friends and he started thinking such a book could be a hit, too.

At the time, Mansbach had published three novels, one book of poetry and had edited an anthology of short stories, but none had really made it big. He was able to get a publisher for F-bomb-filled book but he wasn’t expecting much from it, either.

Then the book was leaked online by a suspected bookseller and it became viral, Mansbach said. Instead of being released this October, the book was rushed for a release in time for Father’s Day. It instantly became a No. 1 bestseller.

Several parents at Monday’s reading thanked Mansbach for his book. “I love your book — I am a mother of a set of 2-year-old twins and a 3-year-old, so every night, it’s like ‘hmph,’” said Clara Buie, an Easton resident who works in Lehigh’s English as a Second Language Department.

Bethlehem resident Grace Wong, who works in Lehigh’s Women’s Studies Department, said while her children are 10 and 16 years old, the book is still relevant to her.

“Thanks for putting it into words on what it’s like to put to your child to bed,” she said. A colleague in her department wanted Mansbach’s opinion on if he thought his book would have been a hit if written by a woman, Wong said. Mansbach said he felt it probably would have been a harder sell. While some readers have knocked his parenting ability, Mansbach said a female author probably would have received even harsher criticism.

“I think it would be harder for a woman to get away with this — there are higher standards for mothers out there,” he said.

Most of the feedback he gets on the book is from mothers, however, he said, which shows who largely puts children to bed.

“My partner likes to point out I still only put my kids to bed like 23 percent of the time,” Mansbach said.

The book has changed Mansbach’s life tremendously, he said. At the time he wrote it, he was finishing a two-year teaching stint at Rutgers University in Camden and wasn’t sure what the next step in his life would be. Now he lives in California and gets to write full-time — he said he just sold the movie rights for the book, as well as a television show on fatherhood and another novel.

“I’m trying to capitalize on the success of this book — I would be silly not to,” he said. Mansbach said while there is an appetite for a sequel, he’s not going to write a book for every step in childhood.

“I’m not going to do, ‘Please F------ Do Your Homework,’” he said. “It’s diminishing.”