Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life

( 13 )

Overview

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, ...

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Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A sufferer's witty, sobering account of living with life-threatening food allergies." —People

“Charming…Beasley is a warm and lively guide to the quirky world of allergies… a vital call to arms for allergy awareness.” —Boston Globe
 
An “honest and amusing medical memoir that’s also a patient-written primer on food allergies. This birthday girl doesn’t kvetch, though she has every right to. She doesn’t consider herself a victim, just someone who has to experience the world differently from the rest of us.” —Washington Post
 
Beasley shares surprisingly delightful stories about her own fraught relationship with food.” —Prevention
 
“An unself-pitying meditation on what it’s like to live without goodies most of us consider essential. What’s more, she somehow manages to make the whole thing hilarious.” —Self

"This information- and anecdote-filled book will be a welcome antidote to the worries and fears endured by families with food allergies."—Booklist

“Intelligent and witty…enthralling…thoughtful and well-written.” Publishers Weekly

"Award winner Beasley (e.g., Barnard Women Poets) offers a cultural study of living the “allergic life.” Library Journal

“Fascinating…humane and informative.” Kirkus Reviews

"[A] fun read...Beasley is certainly inspiring to anyone who's suffered from allergies or other medical conditions that make you feel like you're on the outside looking in. But her memories of a supportive family who stuck with her through hard times, friends and lovers who accommodated her needs, and her narrative of independence and self-sufficiency will strike a chord with any reader—even those whose gustatory options are endless." —SeriousEats.com

"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’s memoir—so bright and lucid and compelling, so intelligent and affecting—is even more than a gripping tale of living with numerous, potentially deadly allergies.  Brilliantly combining her personal narrative with medical research and cultural analyses, Beasley’s memoir is ultimately an exploration of how we negotiate our vulnerable, permeable selves in a world that is filled equally with joy and harm.”  —Richard McCann, author of Mother of Sorrows
 
"Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl is much more than a compelling examination of food allergies—it’s a meditation on human fragility. Sandra Beasley has made visible the potential hazards of what so many of us take for granted and moves away from the body’s rejection of allergens into the story of what it means to live and love.  In sparkling prose, Beasley has written a memoir that becomes a remarkable mélange—undeniably informative, and a real pleasure—both hip and wickedly smart." —Alex Lemon, author of Happy: A Memoir and Fancy Beasts
 
“Sandra Beasley's book is both hilarious and moving. It's about what it's like to live in fear of hidden parmesan, but it's also about teenage rebellion, romance and George Washington Carver. Recommended for everyone, no matter what their immune system is like.” —A.J. Jacobs, author of My Life as an Experiment and The Year of Living Biblically

Don't Kill The Birthday Girl is a compelling and enlightening exploration of what life is like for someone with life threatening allergies.  Thoughtful and witty but most important, educational, this book is a must read for anyone who has or knows someone with severe allergies—which means everyone.” —Jill McCorkle, author of Going Away Shoes and Carolina Moon

Suzanne Allard Levingston
…[an] honest and amusing medical memoir that's also a patient-written primer on food allergies…Beasley diligently recounts the history and science of food allergies, but she's most engaging when she weaves in her own story.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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)
Library Journal
Kiss the birthday girl? Never! Beasley has had such severe allergies her whole life that the mere crumbs clinging to her friends' sticky lips would have sent her to the hospital. Hence her mother's warning, as seen in the title. Yet another poet trying out the memoir form, award winner Beasley (e.g., Barnard Women Poets) offers a cultural study of living the "allergic life" that could appeal to anyone with food allergies (up to 12 million Americans). With a readers' guide.
Kirkus Reviews

Former American Scholar editor and award-winning poet Beasley's debut memoir is a fascinating—though at times disjointed—account of living with severe allergies.

The author's earliest recollections involved birthdays and the way they highlighted her difference from others. While her mother would give her "Sandra-friendly" treats, she would prepare a cake for everyone else and warn guests not to touch, kiss or hug her—hives, anaphylactic shock or death could be the unwelcome result.Needless to say, growing up sensitive to more than a dozen kinds of foods and 10 different kinds of animals and environmental elements was a huge challenge.From babyhood well into adolescence, Beasley and her parents never knew which foods would cause illness.Though her home environment could accommodate her condition, whenever she went out—to school, to friends' houses and restaurants—she could never be certain that the few foods she could safely eat hadn't been tainted with traces of what she couldn't.As a result, from the time she was in elementary school, she had to carry an adult-sized purse loaded with Benadryl, an EpiPen auto-injector and an inhaler.Speaking as the survivor of too-numerous-to-count trips to the emergency room, she writes "[t]here's a reason they're called allergy 'attacks'; you never knew where a food can be lurking." Interspersed with memories of the daily game of "Russian roulette" she was forced to play well into young adulthood are well-researched sections about such neglected topics as the history of allergy identification and treatment, as well as interesting anecdotes about the little-known social exclusions faced by people with allergies. However, Beasley seems to be trying to write two books in one: the first, about her life, and the second about an important topic (food allergies) that deserves greater attention than it has so far received.

Uneven but humane and informative.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307588128
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 369,219
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.86 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Beasley

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

    As a cousin and best friend to 3 people with sever peanut a

    As a cousin and best friend to 3 people with sever peanut allergies (Even though she isn't allergic to nuts) this book was very applicable to me. (But obviously not as applicable as someone with an actual food allergy) This is a great book about someone with allergies to about 15 foods and other normal allergies (i.e. dust) and how her and her family have shaped their lives around them.
    The writing style is nice and relaxed and told from 1st person. While the organization could have been better (i.e. chronological) I still loved the book. I would recommend this to adults and teens. This book is not a book I would recommend to any one younger than middle school because it is long and it just isn't a children's book. It is also a good read for anyone with a food allergy, a child with a food allergy, or anyone who would like to help reduce ignorance in the world to food allergies. Sandra Beasley tells a great story of living with allergies and really help to show the world how hard it is.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 27, 2012

    Recommended for food allergy sufferers!

    I was immediately drawn to this book because I myself suffer from food allergies. Not only does Sandra give you details into her life regarding the hardships she has faced, but she also provides very knowledgable information to readers who may not understand just how severe food allergies can be. I felt very connected to the story, especially when she mentioned how she had to always wear the perfect size purse to house her epi pen, inhaler, and benadryl. She has shown that even though people can suffer from food allergies, they can still lead normal lives.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    Kritters Ramblings

    As I am the girl with no allergies, other than the occasional red bumps on the legs from a picnic in the grass, I am that skeptic that thinks that the world is overreacting and too accommodating to those who have allergies. After reading this book, I am a little more empathetic but also don't think our schools need to go to the drastic measures that they sometimes do.

    A memoir that takes place right around the corner from where I live, in Arlington, VA with a little girl who is growing up with a long laundry list of allergies to many food groups. As the title suggests, many traditions and events revolve around food where a child with allergies may feel left out because they can not partake in the complete ritual due to an allergy to one food group or another.

    A book that I would definitely recommend as a great memoir that may open your minds to how families must cope if a child or parent has any kind of food allergy or illness that may limit the foods that they may eat.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2011

    A must read!

    This book is a must read if someone in your life suffers from allergies. I've had allergies (both food and environmental) since I was 11 months old; this book does a wonderful job of explaining how I felt growing up and the challenges of living with allergies. I also found myself laughing out loud when the author shared some of her stories -- it felt great to know that I'm not the only one experiencing these feelings and challenges.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2011

    I can can relate

    As a allergenic I can soooooo relate to this book one thing though I only have a peanut allergy: ) but i thought it was a great book :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2012

    Clueless

    Everybody is saying this is a good book and some say it is bad.You should have your own opinion.It is about a girl that has allergies.How do you think it is?

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    Waste of money

    I really disliked this book and could not even finish it.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 6, 2011

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    Posted November 3, 2011

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    Posted November 29, 2011

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