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Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life
Synopses & Reviews
A beautifully written and darkly funny journey through the world of the allergic.
Like twelve million other Americans, Sandra Beasley suffers from food allergies. Her allergies—severe and lifelong—include dairy, egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish, and mustard. Add to that mold, dust, grass and tree pollen, cigarette smoke, dogs, rabbits, horses, and wool, and it’s no wonder Sandra felt she had to live her life as “Allergy Girl.” When butter is deadly and eggs can make your throat swell shut, cupcakes and other treats of childhood are out of the question—and so Sandra’s mother used to warn guests against a toxic, frosting-tinged kiss with “Don’t kill the birthday girl!”
It may seem that such a person is “not really designed to survive,” as one blunt nutritionist declared while visiting Sandra’s fourth-grade class. But Sandra has not only survived, she’s thrived—now an essayist, editor, and award-winning poet, she has learned to navigate a world in which danger can lurk in an unassuming corn chip. Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl is her story.
With candor, wit, and a journalist’s curiosity, Sandra draws on her own experiences while covering the scientific, cultural, and sociological terrain of allergies. She explains exactly what an allergy is, describes surviving a family reunion in heart-of-Texas beef country with her vegetarian sister, delves into how being allergic has affected her romantic relationships, exposes the dark side of Benadryl, explains how parents can work with schools to protect their allergic children, and details how people with allergies should advocate for themselves in a restaurant.
A compelling mix of memoir, cultural history, and science, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl is mandatory reading for the millions of families navigating the world of allergies—and a not-to-be-missed literary treat for the rest of us.
"In this intelligent and witty memoir, poet Beasley (I Was the Jukebox) recounts her lifelong struggle to live a normal life while waging a battle against deadly food allergies. The author is one of 'more than 12 million Americans who have been diagnosed with food allergies, a figure that includes almost 4% of all children.' The title of this enthralling book is not hyperbole. As little as a kiss or hug from a family member or a friend who had eaten cake or ice cream at a birthday party could cause Beasley to break out in hives or, worse, suffer anaphylactic shock. She calls sherbet 'sweet, icy death in a bowl.' Beasley details her vigilant parents' never-ending routine for keeping her safe during her childhood until she left for college, how she and her friends coped with 'the thousand minor hassles of living with' her food allergies during college, and the perils of eating while traveling. Throughout this thoughtful and well-written book, Beasley closes the knowledge gap surrounding food allergies. She writes entertainingly about the history of allergies, and current research findings; religious issues surrounding food allergies; and processed foods and their hidden ingredients. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Award winner Beasley (e.g., Barnard Women Poets) offers a cultural study of living the “allergic life.” --Library Journal
"For readers who suffer from allergies, or care for someone who does, for parents who wonder why they can no longer send their child to school with the American staple, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or for anyone curious about how Sandra Beasley handles a lifelong challenge successfully, this book is for you. Winning, wise and humorous, you'll think twice when someone says, ‘Pass the peanuts.’"--Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Don't Sing at the Table
SANDRA BEASLEY is the author of the poetry collections I Was the Jukebox, winner of the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling, which won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize. Her honors include a DCCAH Individual Artist Fellowship, the Friends of Literature Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers, Inc. She lives in Washington, D.C., where her prose has been featured in the Washington Post Magazine.
About the Author
Sandra Beasley has had severe allergies to certain foods her entire life. When butter is deadly and eggs can make your throat swell shut, cupcakes and other joys of childhood are out of the question—and so Sandra's mother used to warn guests against a toxic, frosting-tinged kiss with "Don't kill the birthday girl!"
Now an award-winning poet, essayist, and editor, Sandra has written a captivating memoir about a subject that has only been addressed in either medical guides or recipe books: a cultural history and sociological study of food allergies, melded with her own humorous and sometimes heartbreaking experiences.
From her short-lived gig as a restaurant reviewer to the dates that ended with trips to the emergency room, Sandra writes with verve and style about the struggle of a modern young woman to come to terms with a potentially deadly disorder.
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