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Modern Perspectives, Motherhood, Young Married Mom

March 20, 2012

A Great Read, Even If You’re Not Allergic to Anything

After renewing it from the library six times, I finally made time to read Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from and Allergic Life by Sandra Beasley. My review comes down to one word: phenomenal, but I’ll expound more all the same.


Beasley is thirty-one years old and has had a slew of food allergies all her life. The book is a combination of her experiences growing up in a world that has her reaching for a dose or two of Benadryl at least once a week, the history of allergy research and food labeling laws, and a taste (pun intended) of up-and-coming treatments and research in the field.


The book reads very easily. Beasley fluidly intertwines her memoir-of-sorts with the bigger picture. For the most part, the pacing keeps the dryer material from seeming that way, but it ultimately doesn’t feel like a book just about her.


I wish I had read this earlier on in our allergy saga. I probably could have avoided at least some of my anxiety about feeding Jacob, both at home and in public. Even now, I learned a lot. Without hesitation, I have recommended this book to other moms who are dealing with their children’s allergies. Beasley does an excellent job of synthesizing the tons and tons of information out there, bringing the relevant—and often surprising—parts to the fore. Her experiences are not necessarily those of others, and there would be more research for an individual to do after reading this. It’s a great starting point.


What struck me most, and what Beasley often emphasizes, is how much her allergies required of her parents, especially her mother. Beasley’s first appointment with her lifelong allergist was on her first birthday. When she was growing up, there were not the food labeling laws, restaurant guidelines, and school awareness that there is today. Her mother had to blaze a trail for them at home, at school, and while traveling.


Jacob’s allergies are a bummer, and learning to live with them has been a tremendous challenge. But like Beasley, I need to give credit to her mother. She figured out what needed to be done, did it, and then taught her daughter what she needed to know to take care of herself.

A year ago, I didn’t really understand the big deal about food allergies. In movies, they are often the traits of pale, skinny, geeky kids who are inappropriately attached to their mothers. Now, as the mother of a food-allergic child, I see why. The truth is, there is a lot in the world that can hurt my little boy: cheese crackers on the playground, another child’s bottle of milk at a play date, a seemingly innocuous peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch. But like Beasley’s mother, I hope I don’t hold Jacob back from what the world has to offer him—and what he has to offer the world—because of his allergies. Rather, I hope I can give him the knowledge and the tools to become everything he is meant to be.

  1. Thank you so much for the kind words about my memoir. You’re right on with your thoughts on how the book treats motherhood. On Wednesday, April 25, I’ll be reading at Brooklyn’s BookCourt at 7 PM to celebrate the paperback launch of DKTBG. It would be lovely if you could come–we could meet in person!

    Sandra Beasley

    Washington, DC

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