Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.52.18 PMEditor’s Note: This is the first in a series of interviews with authors who will be appearing at the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend.

By Franklin Abbott

All In author Josh Levs is a man in search of a mitzvah. His new book is both a plea and an action plan to help fathers become more involved in the lives of their children.

He learned about how our system of work conspires against fathers the hard way. When his third child was born after a difficult pregnancy, Levs requested paternity leave to stay at home and help his wife, who was suffering from preeclampsia with their new infant daughter and their two pre-school aged boys. His employer denied the leave. Levs decided to fight their decision and ultimately won.

Levs, who lives in Atlanta with his family, graduated from Yale and became a television journalist working for both NPR and CNN. He did a Father’s Day segment in 2009 for CNN that was so popular he went on to do three more. He became the dad columnist for CNN.com writing frequently on topics relating to the stress on fathers and families brought on by the economic recession.

He learned a lot from his struggles and decided to write a book to help other fathers claim their right to be there for their families. In doing so, he learned it was not just about getting rules changed. The issue of the lack of support for paternity leave was rooted in deeper cultural patterns that rewarded men for choosing work over family and women for choosing family over work.

Levs also explores the continuing effects of sexism on workplace politics and policies. He grew up in the “free to be you and me” generation and never conceived that women were less capable or qualified than men. Despite this, Levs notes how men are punished in the world of work whenever they put their families first and that women receive similar messages to become the primary caregivers for the children. Levs advocates for gender justice, that women and men have equal rights as parents and equal opportunities to spend quality time with their families.

Jewishness is central to the way Levs thinks about life. He keeps kosher and is committed to social justice. In a Yom Kippur talk given to Emory Hillel in 2011, Levs said, “I feel responsibility to the generations [before us] and what they went through.” He went on to say, “You have to learn from the past and learn from it and use it to live a better life.”

Levs will be appearing at the Decatur Book Festival Sunday, Sept. 6, at 5 p.m. in Marriott Conference Center B.

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and poet. His last anthology, Boyhood: Growing Up Male was published by the University of Wisconsin Press. For more information visit, franklinabbott.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.