Today we have another memoir that combines research on a topic near and dear to the author’s heart. Yesterday it was superhero comics, today it is food allergies. Poet Sandra Beasley writes about life with severe allergies. And by severe, I mean constantly life-threatening.
We all know teens who struggle with allergies, and those of us who work in schools are encouraged (if not required) to leave the nuts at home. Beasley writes about living with (and surviving) allergies during every stage of her life, including as a teen and college student.
Have you have discovered the new Shelf Awareness for Readers yet? As you might have guessed, it is intended for the general reader, as opposed to Shelf Awareness Pro, written for those in the book trade. Both are informative and plenty of fun. I do have a point here — last Friday’s issue includes a nice list of further reading for Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl.
I should also mention that Beasley’s most recent book of poetry, I Was the Jukebox (Norton, 2010), is a good recommendation for teen readers. It is being released in paperback on August 1.
Adult/High School–More than 12 million Americans suffer from allergies, but few of them can possibly be allergic to as many things as Beasley, who chronicles her hyper-allergic life with wry and sometimes disturbing stories. From a childhood in which she could never taste a birthday cake (wheat flour) to adolescence when she couldn’t kiss her boyfriend (who might have eaten peanuts) and into an adulthood where even a secret ingredient in a bar drink (grapefruit juice) might cause a life-threatening reaction, Beasley has lived at risk of death from her allergies. She has survived by being vigilant and acutely attentive to her environment including every ingredient of each thing she ate. Despite living in a world in which just about everything seems to want to kill her, she writes with a sense of humor that sustains her insights and abundant research about allergies. She never whines about her condition or the difficulty of fitting into a culture that for so long was not interested in her affliction or much interested in protecting her (with ingredient listings and epi-pens in the classroom) from danger. Rather, she writes with a gracious invitation to readers to understand her challenges. Teens with allergies will appreciate how Beasley learned to adapt during adolescence when peer pressure was sometimes so powerful that she ate what everyone else was eating, even knowing it would provoke a serious response. High school students engaged in research on allergies will also find it a useful resource.–John Sexton, formerly at Westchester Library System, Tarrytown, NY