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Father’s Memoir Breaks the Code of Silence About His Family’s Struggle to Raise a Deeply Traumatized Russian Orphan Who Answered Love with Hate for 20 years… Until She Read This Book
While this book was published this summer, though almost no publicity or reviews, Raising A Thief has been passed from friend to parent via word of mouth -- resulting in wide appeal -- and fantastic book reviews ! This book is for anyone who has been dealing with a difficult family member and has struggled with ways to help their loved one. This book deserves to be read and reviewed by more readers. Please don't ignore this book simply because it was published during the country-wide Covid lockdown. .
This story is a rare portrait of a family struggling to raise a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Often this kind of challenge is hidden in the shadows, shrouded as a family’s private pain. Instead, in this unflinching account that lays bare the hurdles―to appropriate services, to a child’s developmental progress, to the family’s foundation as a unit, and to their sense of peace and what it means to love―Podolsky shows us with depth and clarity what it entails. We are fortunate to have such a view from an author who writes eloquently, observes every nuance, and thinks deeply.
-- James Levine, PhD, LICSW, Founding Director of James Levine & Associates, author of Learning from Behavior
Hard Truths Told with Grace and Honesty! This book is important reading for anyone dealing with severely traumatized young children. Podolsky is radically vulnerable in his description of his family's experience in loving and raising his adopted Russian daughter. His daughter writes her own a postscript in this tragic tale on her life and her family. It is a riveting story of a family that tries to do everything right as their lives fall apart and of professionals, few of whom understood the gravity of the situation. I have recommended this book to therapist friends who work in this field, but you don't have to be a therapist to appreciate this passionate beautifully told story. -- Zara Renander -- 5.0 out of 5 stars
When Paul and Marina Podolsky adopted a Russian orphan, Sonya, they thought the abuse and neglect their child had endured from the hands of her birth mother and government orphanages could be soothed with consistent love. They never expected that this beautiful, charming child would struggle to reciprocate love, sabotage any connection to the family and would conspire to damage other family members and children. This is a true story about raising an unusually challenging child who is ultimately diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Raising A Thief allows the reader to better understand the immeasurable impact of a caregiver early in a child's life, and to also grasp why some bounce back from terrible childhood adversity and some struggle.
This book has been appealing to anyone who has a difficult family member. Word of mouth for this book has parents, siblings and friends of those with fractured families passing Raising A Thief to one another. Author Paul Podolsky raises the ethical and moral conundrums of what families can do for their loved ones who continue to strangle relationship dynamics – whether it is because of alcoholism, drugs, mental illness, spectrum disorders, or even as in this case, an attachment disorder like RAD. In addition, Paul talks about the decision to adopt from Russia (his wife’s homeland).
Paul muses over the modern expectations for what being a father means in today’s society and how different this was in other generations past. He reflects on living up to the expectations of being a father and the emotional connections that are imperative today for father/child dynamics. But most importantly, Paul’s personal story tells how immensely difficult it was to find a diagnosis for and treatment for his adopted daughter, while trying desperately to repair the family unit. Raising A Thief will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
A note from Sonya’s father and author Paul Podolsky:
Raising A Thief is a story about being a parent. Particularly about being a parent with a very difficult child. In fact, a child that is unable to reciprocate love. It's something you can imagine exists until you wrestle with it first-hand. I met my wife marina in Russia in the early 1990s. We have one biological child together, Sasha. We wanted to have a second child, so we adopted our daughter Sonya. We adopted her from a beaten orphanage in Kaliningrad, Russia. Early on we noticed behaviors of Sonya that were substantially different than anything we had seen with our son. She wouldn't latch on to us as parents. As she aged other behaviors came out. She lied and stole constantly. She exposed herself to classmates. She soiled herself. As she increased in age, 6, 7, 8, she destroyed the property of her friends. She would sneak out of swim practice and rob all of her teammates and she continued to rob from us and robbed things that had more impact to them, like medicine. We were very confused as parents. We reached out to psychiatrists, psychologists, school counselors, social workers. None of them could give us an adequate answer about what was going on with our daughter. Late at night my wife finally was able to begin unraveling the riddle. Through a lot of searching on the internet she found a mental health professional who specialized in this. Through him we were able to get connected to a school in New Mexico that exclusively dealt with children who were struggling with the same issues as our daughter.
At nine, we took her to a school in New Mexico and they formerly diagnosed her with Reactive Attachment Disorder. There is no comprehensive understanding of what Reactive Attachment Disorder is in our society -- not even many clinicians are familiar with how to work with that disorder, let alone people at schools. We found out that without a proper diagnosis you can't create a proper treatment.
The first part of the book takes you through that story, from adopting our daughter Sonya to taking her New Mexico.
The second part of the book looks at the phenomena itself, of attachment. What does that mean? Then I take you through what that residential treatment did to our family, which is that it looked at each of us through that framework of attachment. And this raises an interesting question: “why do some people have difficult childhoods and later blossom in life and other people don't?” At lot depends on both the severity of what happened to a child and when it occurred. We know that lack of loving constant presence of a parent in a child's life, especially in the beginning of the life, causes the brain to develop abnormally. Remember, Sonya was starved at birth when you your most defenseless and then she had multiple separations by the time we adopted her. At 16 months already an enormous amount of damage had occurred and critically no one we spoke to early on said she was a risk for these behaviors, so we were not treating her for them.
The third part of the book has Sonya leaving New Mexico, coming home and our whole family trying to apply what we've learned to heal her and heal our family. I won't tell you how the book ends but I will tell you though that you will have a much better understanding of why I chose the title, Raising a Thief.
Video From Paul Talking About His Adopted Daughter Sonya and His Family’s Life: https://youtu.be/B6eaw7MIMns
Podcast with Sonya Talking About her Diagnosis: https://episodes.buzzsprout.com/709dzhh8qanq833vd8gvnpt8pkj3?
(After turning 18 years old, Sonya cuts off all ties with the family and the father writes this book. Two years later, a few weeks before the book's publication, curiosity about the book brings Sonya back into contact with the family and reading it gives her a newfound understanding of her parents. The result is an incredible ending that father and daughter discuss in a podcast.)
Paul Podolsky is the author of the memoir, Raising A Thief. A former journalist and Wall Street investment manager, Paul lives in Westport, Connecticut with his wife Marina, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist. For over 20 years he worked on Wall Street, most of that time with Bridgewater Associates, a macro hedge fund. Prior to that he worked as a journalist where his writing appeared in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and aired on National Public Radio. He has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Paul and Marina have two adult children, one who works in technology and the other the subject of Raising a Thief. In 2020, Paul retired from Bridgewater and launched the podcast, Things I Didn’t Learn in School. He has also contributed opinion pieces to Bloomberg Opinion and Medium.
I am passionate about understanding how people think and why because this is the most important thing. This book offers an invaluable picture about how the earliest childhood experiences shape thinking. I recommend it for all parents. -- Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Founder and author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Principles
Reflecting his background as a journalist, Paul brings a compassionate perspective to the process of adoption and the myriad challenges confronting families. Readers will be rewarded with a rich narrative and bold characters who explore fundamental questions that all of us must grapple with such as how we choose to build, sustain, and define relationships. -Neil Aggarwal, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University, Research Psychiatrist, New York State Psychiatric Institute
This story is a rare portrait of a family struggling to raise a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Often this kind of challenge is hidden in the shadows, shrouded as a family’s private pain. Instead, in this unflinching account that lays bare the hurdles―to appropriate services, to a child’s developmental progress, to the family’s foundation as a unit, and to their sense of peace and what it means to love―Podolsky shows us with depth and clarity what it entails. We are fortunate to have such a view from an author who writes eloquently, observes every nuance and thinks deeply. -- James Levine, PhD, LICSW, Founding Director of James Levine & Associates and author of Learning from Behavior
SAMPLING OF PARENT & READER REVIEWS
Lisa B -- 5.0 out of 5 stars
He Is Inside My Head
This book is beautifully well-written and is an accurate tale of raising a child with reactive attachment disorder. A must for anyone involved, in whatever way. with such a child. After eight plus years of pure hell we terminated our parental rights to our adopted daughters, both of whom were diagnosed with RAD as well as a myriad of other disorders. The inpatient staff noted that they had never seen children with such inability to make any progress at all and that they believed we would be killed if we kept them in our home. Thanks so much for making this disorder so easily understood. Without other parents in the same situation we would have completely lost our minds.
Olivia G --5.0 out of 5 stars
A Memoir That Reads Almost Like a Thriller – Highly Recommended
This is the first time I read a memoir in one sitting, late into the night. The author wrote his story in such a compelling and gripping way that once I started, I was not able to stop. The book is a remarkable and difficult story about two parents' journey to help an adopted child with Reactive Attachment Disorder-- one in which the child is ultimately unable to reciprocate love…. There is never a dull moment in this book. It's filled with touching and heart-clenching moments.
Vinny -- 5.0 out of 5 stars
Fantastic read - hard to put down. Insightful, sad, and touching.
Excellent! I think the author makes great observations about being a father and a husband - which struck a few chords with me: The hopes we have for our children, learning to trust your wife’s instincts, etc. Plus, the author has an uncanny ability to step back and cast his experiences through a prism that shows how they can relate more broadly to bigger social groups, such as an entire nation. And then mixed in with all that is the sadness, frustration, and confusion of raising a child like that. All in all a fantastic read that was hard to put down. Highly recommended.
Judy Stolz --5.0 out of 5 stars
Couldn’t put it down!
I think I found out about this book on a Facebook ad! I too am raising a child with reactive attachment disorder. Adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage at 26 months of age-now 14 years old -we have been through all of the same behaviors, – the opposition, constant lying and manipulation, refusal to do hygiene, on and on-all directed at me – the single mom. The author does such an exceptional job at explaining how I feel but was never able to express in my own words. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in adopting a child, or a friend, neighbor, or family member of anyone who has adopted a child.
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