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Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life Hardcover – July 12, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307588111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307588111
  • ASIN: 0307588114
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #762,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

About the Author

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.


More About the Author

Sandra Beasley is the author of Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a memoir and cultural history of food allergies. Her previous books are both collections of poetry: I Was the Jukebox, which won the 2009 Barnard Women Poetry Prize, selected by Joy Harjo, and Theories of Falling, which won the New Issues Poetry Prize judged by Marie Howe. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Slate, The Believer, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Best American Poetry 2010.

Beasley lives in Washington, D.C., where her nonfiction has been featured in the Washington Post Magazine. For more information, please visit www.SandraBeasley.com, follow her on Twitter @SandraBeasley, or check out her Author page on Facebook.

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Customer Reviews

If you know someone who is allergic to some foods, read the book - it will change your perspective.
James Ridgway
I could relate to this book as a food allergy suffering myself, as well as the parent of a child with life threatening allergies.
Gadget Girl
The author though also filled the book with lots of information about allergies and their political history.
Kirstein Howell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Radar626 VINE VOICE on June 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It was with a bit of dread that I began to read this book. I've read many self told tales of misery and redemption over the years, and stopped choosing books of that genre as the overall tone became too self-absorbed ("No one else out of six billion people has had it worse than me."), self-promoting ("I cured myself and I can cure you, too!!") and a bit preachy ("If you don't do what I tell you, you will die a horrible, painful death."). What a delight it was when this book turned out to be so different.

With no shortage of humor and wit does the author give the story of her life with allergies. Some, such as dairy, pollens, eggs and nuts, are those we've all heard of. But honeydew melons? Cucumbers? It was interesting to see how some people have allergies to foods most of us would never even consider putting on a list of allergy inducing items. Her reactions to these items also ran the gamut from a mild reaction easily taken care of with Benadryl (which gets a huge plug in this book) or a race to the ER to prevent full anaphylactic shock. I also came away from this book with much more understanding of the isolation that must be felt by those with severe allergies. As a child, could you imagine how it would feel to be left out of a birthday party because the child's parents arranged for a petting zoo? I remember living in Michigan and taking a trip to the JIFFY factory, which as a third grader was very cool. As an adult, I can't imagine being the only child in all the third grade classes unable to go because of an allergy. Yet I don't feel pity for the author, but rather empathy, and I think that is one of the author's goals in writing this book.
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33 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Dr. M. A. Dixon TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I enjoyed reading Don't Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley. The author's accounts of her challenges of coping with food allergies are ones in which I can relate, empathize, and laugh lest I cry. She intersperses historical and scientific information about allergies and vegetarianism and such in with her memoirs.

The author comes off very likable in the book, but before the end, I become very annoyed that she is still continuing to try eating in restaurants as she openly admits she has anaphylactic shock about half of the time; each time she is exposed to her allergen, she is chancing developing more allergies and even become a universal reactor (just look at the work by Doris Rapp, MD). She laments that others just don't understand about foods needing to be "Sandra-friendly" but doesn't see that she is the one that needs to understand how important it is and not risk her health and even her very life for the fleeting experience of eating at a restaurant. One cannot expect others to treat one better than one is treating themselves. The ultimate responsibility for one's health lies with yourself and really should not be placed recklessly in the hands of those that are less informed and probably care more about their own circumstances than ours.

Those of us with food allergies, intolerances, and/or sensitivities know that you must take the responsibility for being vigilant by always reconfirming the status of a menu item and addressing cross-contamination issues each and every time. Just because one time is a success doesn't mean that ordering the same thing at the same restaurant will be a success next time as your meal is only as safe as the cook, ingredients, kitchen, utensils, and waitperson was that particular time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By N. B. Kennedy TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's tough to cook for people these days -- allergies galore, vegetarians, caffeine and sugar free folks, gluten sensitivities, lactose intolerances. It's easy to view all of this negatively, as if these overly fussy folks were willfully making our lives hard... and somehow perversely enjoying it.

But Sandra Beasley illuminates the terrors and complexities of the allergic life in such a winning way that you might just let go of your resentments. Until I read this book, I just couldn't imagine how allergies can shut down a person's life so completely. Ms. Beasley is allergic to everything you could imagine, from dairy foods, beef and shrimp to melons, mustard, cucumbers and nuts. "That's not somebody designed to survive, now, is it," opines a nutritionist in her fourth-grade class.

With humor and pathos, Ms. Beasley shows how allergies put many of the things we take for granted out of her reach. The food rituals of childhood that she couldn't share, the spontaneity of love that is denied her, the deadly perils that lie on every plate put before her. Her life is one tenuous day after another, her survival continually in the balance.

Ms. Beasley interweaves her personal story with research and data about allergies and allergic reactions. If you're not a fellow-sufferer, you might choose to skip over some of this very detailed information. But slow down when you come to her life story, because she tells it well.

I particularly cheered for Ms. Beasley when she goes alone to Galatoire's in the French Quarter of New Orleans and studies the menu carefully for something she can eat. A solicitous waiter assists her, and after a slight misstep, she has a meal to savor and remember. "The pleasure of each bite was intensified by the risk of trusting an unfamiliar city to take care of me," she writes. The reader comes away glad that she's being taken care of and that she is enjoying herself at last.
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