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

by Sandra Beasley

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Quick and easy read. Fun and informative. ( )
  greenscoop | Nov 15, 2014 |
Quick and easy read. Fun and informative. ( )
  greenscoop | Nov 15, 2014 |
My daughter has a severe peanut and tree nut allergy and a fairly serious egg allergy. I'm a worry-wart by nature (just ask my kids!) but worrying about her allergies has added a whole different dimension to worry-warting. I am working hard, though, to be realistic and constructive, and to train her to navigate as safely as possible in a world that is not and should not be nut and egg free. The biggest challenge is finding the right line between taking precautions and being prepared--and figuring out what's reasonable to hope for or expect in terms of accommodation. I have never seen a topic attract as much vitriol as this one on comment threads: I get really depressed about the people who feel there's no sacrifice to their convenience worth making to help protect someone vulnerable in this way. Happily, in real life I have found pretty much everybody would rather be helpful than not. We don't try to create a safe bubble for our daughter, but it sure makes her life more fun and ours more relaxing if, just for instance, the cake at a birthday party is not laced with peanut butter. We always send along safe options for her, though, and she brings benadryl and her epipen along at all times. Now that she's older, she takes more responsibility herself, including reading lists of ingredients and declining food if someone can't show her that list. "Don't assume," is our number one safely rule, and "no epi-pen, no food" is the other.

But it's one thing to convince yourself (and her) that she'll be OK if she's sensible and prepared, and another to control the anxiety. So there's lots to appreciate about this memoir, including the author's frank descriptions of how difficult her allergies made her life, and her parents'. She has a much wider range of allergies than my daughter, and reading her story I felt selfishly grateful that my daughter's are fewer and more or less easier to control for. The technical stuff about allergies was not that interesting because we're more or less familiar with it. The author is rightly emphatic that people who claim to have allergies but don't aren't helping people with life-threatening ones get taken seriously. At the same time, she makes some good arguments about problems with attempts to create allergen-free zones--she is, or at least positions herself as, an advocate for good information and sensible policies, a moderate (despite the severity of her own allergies) amidst extremists on both sides.

This all seems like a good way to go forward, except that I felt, reading along, that her repeated insistence that she knows the world does not revolve around her allergies (e.g. she can't and shouldn't try to control other people's choices, homes, air plane snacks, lunch boxes, etc.) is undermined by her many, many stories of derailing outings, vacations, parties, and so on by having reactions severe enough to require trips to the hospital. Her determination to get out there and live with everybody else has clearly had consequences for everybody else and I wondered if eating out a lot (she spends a lot of time talking about restaurant food) and either having reactions or sending plates back that weren't prepared quite as specified is really as non-confrontational as all that. Is it really better to end up curled on the floor ill and needing rescue from parties than to negotiate safer food choices with your friends? In her case, given the range of her allergies, maybe there's just no degree of compromise possible and I can see resolving that it's worth some risks not to live like a hermit. But couldn't you ask your boyfriend to give up milk if the option is not kissing you? Which would he really prefer? Live and let live sounds like a good policy but it doesn't really operate as 'let live' in practice. But these are really tough choices and negotiations.
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
This is a very enjoyable read! The author's style is both witty and good-humored while managing to instill true empathy in the reader, and help them gain perspective on something usually taken for granted and not given a second thought. It's incredibly hard to truly explain an invisible disability without someone managing to stand in your shoes, so I was truly impressed by how effortless the author made this possible. With eye-opening views on food culture and the terror of an "allergy epidemic", it's wonderful to see someone who is not only able to describe what some of the problems we face with food allergies today, but has some clear solutions to them as well. ( )
  Trundlebear | Jun 1, 2013 |
I don't know how I ended up on a list from Crown Publishing to receive Proof and ARCs, but I did. So far I have just given them away or chucked them, because they were NOTHING I would have wanted to read. But, this one looked interesting. I hung on to it to see if it would talk to me.

It was great! I really enjoyed it. And, for an uncorrected proof, I have to say the writing/editing was better than most books I buy off the shelf!

Sandra Beasley is a poet who decided to write a memoir based on her life as a person with severe food allergies since birth. She is smart and knowledgeable, thankfully, but also funny. Her humor, even in the face of trauma (or in hind sight of it) makes what could be a very dry and sorrowful story engaging and entertaining. I recommend this book for just about any one with any interest in the topic, or just a wonderful story from a very talented writer. Certainly if you know anyone with severe food allergies or for sure a parent of a child with severe food allergies this book should be recommended, if not bought out-right and handed to them. ( )
  Ameliapei | Apr 18, 2013 |
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Describes the impact of the author's food allergies on her childhood while tracing the cultural history of food allergies, relating such experiences as her short-lived job as a restaurant reviewer and dates that ended in trips to the emergency room.

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