BEFORE THEIR TIME: Four Generations of Teenage Mothers by Joelle Sander

BEFORE THEIR TIME: Four Generations of Teenage Mothers

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Sander, a therapist and associate director of continuing education at Sarah Lawrence, records the stories of a young black woman, her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother as they tell of their childhood and of raising children as teenage mothers. Looking back on their early lives, all four generations speak of their need for male companionship after their fathers left their respective families, and their lack of confidence that they could succeed without their fathers. The bulk of Sander's interviews are with Leticia, who became pregnant with her first child at 16. Now 20, she is currently enrolled in a YMCA program to prepare young mothers for their high-school equivalency tests. Her resilience is impressive as she talks about her life: her parents' divorce when she was three, ten years of sexual abuse by her stepfather (which further destroyed her confidence), a severe beating by her crack dealer that sent her to the hospital and convinced her to drop her habit. Leticia boasts of her role at the YMCA--""They see me as a leader here""--but as she begins to reveal the overwhelming stress of keeping an apartment for her children, she confides, ""I don't know where they get this feeling from here, that I'm in charge or something...I don't feel that way."" Later, after Leticia loses custody of her son to her boyfriend's family in a court case, Leticia's grandmother voices the suspicion that Leticia deliberately lost the case in exchange for money to buy crack. Sander concludes that she, too, is overwhelmed by Leticia's life, but insists ""there is no choice but to try"" to help to reduce teenage pregnancy rates. The answer, she says, is to expand the role of the public schools to offer poor teens health care, birth control, counseling, and concrete alternatives to repeating the patterns of their families. Sander's interviews stand as a powerful testimony for urgent action, and her recommendations seem right on the money.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich