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Kim Livingston
Walks Like a Duck

When her son’s teacher suggests the boy be tested for ADHD, Kim Livingston, uninformed and wary of the label, fights her. She fights the social worker, the physician. “We can call it whatever you like,” the doctor says. “But if he walks like a duck and talks like a duck, they’re all going to know he’s a duck."

This English professor grew up spacey and overweight. Drowning in the demands of young motherhood, Livingston steals her son’s ADHD medication and watches it transform her life—for good and bad.

She experiments with functional medicine to learn her brain’s potential and biohacks her way to a healthy body and mind. Livingston’s story is for parents who are overwhelmed, embarrassed by their messy house, or worried about labeling and medicating their children; for teachers seeking insight into the mind of that quiet back-row student; and for families dealing with each other’s divergent brains. Walks Like a Duck is a tale of chaos and order, a journey toward taking control.

Livingston's enlightening debut recounts how her unique childhood—living with a legally blind father, a schizophrenic brother, and a negligent mother—pushed her toward independence but also meant that marriage and motherhood (which she writes “beat the hell out of me”) proved a challenge. She effectively narrates the unwanted pandemonium that comes with having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), especially in passages about becoming a parent, trying to find the focus and discipline to “meet the unrealistic expectations of suburban motherhood.” As she became a mother of three children who have neurodivergent tendencies, she found herself haunted by the fear of the discrimination her children might face or, worse, the self-degradation that could easily follow.

Her story evokes an awareness of how the disarray in the way she manages her life is nothing but a reflection of the inner workings of her mind. Moreover, it shows how that reflection goes a long way back, to being a neglected child with undiagnosed ADHD, and the impact of this—shame, doubt—on her self perception. As a child, she once wondered if something was wrong with her brain. Now, as a mother of three neurodiverse children, two of whom share in her diagnosis, she dares to seek unconventional ways for herself and her family to learn to live with ADHD while also living the best life. Her accounts of this are moving.

While this memoir navigates the complexities of ADHD, including the challenges it brings to relationships, Livingston demonstrates throughout the urgency of having a support system whose members both passively understand the situation and actively participate in seeking help and spreading awareness. Her story, told with incisive scenecraft and an eye for the affecting detail, calls for empathy and action, all stirring hope that peace and understanding are possible, even for people who have spent years believing entropy and chaos to be innate to their identity.

Takeaway: Hopeful memoir of living with ADHD and finding and creating support.

Comparable Titles: Tom Nardone's Chasing Kites, Rebecca Schiller's A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A