NORTHERN CALIFORNIA INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION

HOLT UNCENSORED #8
by Pat Holt

October 16, 1998

ON RITALIN AND TEENAGE SINGLE MOMS

Two very different books about children and parenting continue to excite booksellers at Stacey's Books in San Francisco (http://www.staceys.com).

"This book scared me," says staff member Colleen Lindsay of RUNNING ON RITALIN by Lawrence H. Diller, M.D. (Bantam; 400 pages; $25.95). "I think every parent, aunt, uncle or anyone who likes kids should read it. The author is a pediatrician who concludes that the recent increase in Ritalin use (up 700 percent in three years!) for Attention Deficit Disorder (his specialty) is more a symptom of a "living imbalance" in society than actual ADD cases.

"Did you know that the United States uses 90 percent of the world's Ritalin supply? That is terrifying. The book kept me up for several nights. It's important." Diller, by the way, is no anti-Ritalin doc - he prescribes the medication for some patients and brings a balanced view to an imensely polarized discussion.

The second book is THE AMAZING "TRUE" STORY OF A TEENAGE SINGLE MOM by Katherine Arnoldi (Hyperion, 192 pages; $16). This is a memoir in the form of a "graphic novel," which means it looks and reads like a comic book in hardcover, but watch out: Its theme is adult, its story terrifying, its truths uplifting and its writing often humorous, even courageous. Ingenuous illustrations have the kind of heartfelt sensibility you'd expect from a precocious self-starter, but there is a maturity of purpose and insight that surprises us on every page.

At seventeen I had a kid," the heroine begins, "and became a teenage single mother." Rather than feeling resigned or sorrowful, the bright teenager pictured here joyously shows us her baby daughter's "amazing little itty bitty fingernails!" and "perfectly (beautiful!) shaped head." Clearly she's a single mom with spunk, and although we don't know why she's destitute or without family at first, we root for her dream of going to college and her gumption at taking a job at a surgical glove factory.

But stripping gloves and hunting for microscopic holes makes her sick, and soon she discovers that the factory's liberal use of talcum powder causes lung disease; the latex in the gloves causes cancer; and the coagulant used to make the gloves impairs eyesight. That's just one of the setbacks that keeps dumping this amazingly resilient young mother on the bottom of society's heap.

A strike, a disastrous lover, a humiliating job and several bottom-of-the-barrel restarts on her life might have turned Arnoldi's story into a preachy melodrama. But as many teenage single mothers know - or can learn from this book (a great guide to resources is provided at the end) - raising a child when you're a kid yourself can open the door to a whole new universe. Portions of the book were first published in "Welfare Mother's Voice," so you know how the author got her own start. It's well worth a look.

Chapter 6 of Remainders of the Day is with the rest of the story in a separate column on this website.

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