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

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  1,388 ratings  ·  325 reviews
Hardcover, 229 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by Crown
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another firstreads book i was denied!!

this one is about a woman with so many food allergies, it makes my head spin: all dairy, eggs, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamia nuts, pistachios, cashews, swordfish, mustard... and not just eating them - sitting at a table where cheese once touched - eating from "contaminated" plates, secret ingredients in spice blends or poorly-labeled drinks... it is horrible! i don't know anyone with severe food allergies, an
Jaime Lee
I'll admit. In the past I was always the person standing off to the sidelines thinking, "Are you serious?" when a friend listed off the foods to which he or she was allergic and then shared the extent to which they must take precautions against a reaction. I witnessed so many of the people in my life claiming 'allergy' when in fact they merely had an intolerance or worse, simply a dislike, that I became desensitized to the fact that there are so many children and adults out there who truly need ...more
As someone that suffers from food and environmental allergies, when this book became available, I jumped at the chance to read it. Like the author, many foods cause anaphylaxis for me. Unlike the author, mine are all related to Oral Allergy Syndrome and I'm not allergic to near the number of things that she is. So, I'm coming from a place of mostly understanding while reading it. No one can explain the amount of panic that occurs when you realize your throat is closing up and your mouth is on fi ...more
I really didn't like this book. I thought it would be funny and interesting and some of it was but most of it was just facts and statistics. I actually got bored of it and didn't finish reading it.
Let's all be happy, for the entire rest of today, that we do not have catastrophic food allergies, shall we? Assuming that you don't, that is. I am planning on being grateful for the rest of my life that my son doesn't appear to be allergic to anything - I have certainly never lived through the horror of seeing him rub cake frosting on his tiny face, which then raises welts in the exact shape of the frosting smears. Good grief! I'm not particularly enamored of Sandra Beasley because of some of t ...more
I could relate to this book in so many ways. I do not suffer from food allergies but I am an insulin dependant diabetic and have been since the age of three. It is amazing what has sugar in it, much like an allergy sufferer I am vigilant about labels and checking. I enjoyed the book. The parts about her life were interesting and I could relate to those also. Trust me suffering from a low blood sugar reaction in a room full of third graders must feel much like having an allergic reaction at a wed ...more
This has easily entered my top 10 favorite books, simply because "she gets me". I was so happy to finally discover a memoir of someone like me: with multiple food allergies running the span of my lifetime and having to endure unintentional ignorance from the public, especially as a kid when allergies were not as acknowledged by the general population, much less were we as protected by law, as today.

I almost screamed aloud, "I KNOW" when she described restaurants who didn't get cross contaminati
The book jacket promised me wit and a journalist's curiosity. I was disappointed. This is mostly facts about allergens and the people who have them interspersed with personal anecdotes. All-in-all it left me a little bored and dissatisfied. The facts were well sourced within the text. I did appreciate that.
Finally a book about living with life threatening food allergies by someone who have first hand experience. She is witty and heart warming and ultimately must rely on herself and not the rest of society to protect her. This is a must read if you or someone you care about lives with food allergies. I especially liked her look at the histroy of medicine and food allergies. Growing up as the only child anyone had ever heard of with food allergies, I was laughing and crying along wiht her. I also ha ...more
Erin Nudi
Interesting book, it has a lot of information on allergies in addition to the personal stories relating to them. Any foodie should definitely read this book.

Beasley goes into, among other things, the whole peanut allergy fiasco that is still going on today - how some are trying to ban the iconic peanut butter and jelly sandwich from schools. The author's opinion seems to be that she doesn't understand why peanut allergies are getting all the media attention when there are in fact eight main, co
Kelly Hager
Part anecdotal memoir and part scientific piece, this is about what it's like to grow up living with a variety of food allergies. Beasley is allergic to a variety of things, including (but not limited to) dairy, egg, beef, soy, shrimp and a variety of nuts and melons. Because her list of allergies is extensive, it can be hard for her to do things like, say, eat at a restaurant or even at a friend's house.

We are the same age, and I don't remember anyone in my elementary school classes suffering f
Nancy Kennedy
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
As the mother of an extremely allergic daughter and as a long-time fan of Sandra Beasley (since she spent a small fraction of her junior year excelling in my class), I completely enjoyed this book. Sandra explains everything you ever needed to know about allergies, and more than I ever knew. Having observed my daughter break out in hives when the wrong food touched her lips, I can vouch for the veracity of Sandra's descriptions of her allergic reactions. She is a very brave woman who, when I kne ...more
It was the title that caught me. I was just going to skim through it to get an overview, but I quickly got pulled in by Beasley's honest and quirky writing style as well as the amazing amount of information that she's packed into this book. I've been affiliated with the food industry for a big chunk of my life, and the issues covered in this book address that side of things, as well as the terrifying realities of living with multiple and severe food allergies.

Beasley really got the short end of
I've seen - plenty of times - the unconscious frown of a waitress when you ask for a minor change (no onions) to a recipe. Imagine having to do that any time you go out to eat because those ingredients could kill you.

Given all of the current news reports on schools creating peanut-free leper colonies, teenagers dying from contaminated kisses, and the rise of gluten-free everything, this book seems very timely. It gives a great glimpse into how difficult managing an allergy, or multiple allergies
Jennifer Short
Have you ever read a book that made you want to eat an omelet with hazelnut chocolate sauce with a glass of soy milk? Well, I never had until I read this book! I wanted to celebrate being able to eat these foods! In Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life , Sandra Beasley presents a sad but at the same time humorously written account of life with multiple food allergies. Weddings? As careful as she is, nearly half of them have left her gasping for air during an allergic attack. ...more
An enlightening (and quick!) read about someone with severe food allergies and how on earth she gets through life. Should be eye-opening for those who "don't believe in" allergies. The woman erupts in hives if someone who just ate a dairy product kisses her on the cheek... there's no faking that.

I enjoyed reading her anecdotes about various reactions in various inconvenient places, and how they occurred. It could be as minor as eating something with the same knife used to cut something she was a
Simeon Berry
As far as I'm concerned, Eula Biss's On Immunity should always be paired with Don't Kill the Birthday Girl. One is about anxieties acted out and one is about anxieties enacted. Both harrowing, sobering, and necessary. Reading this book made me aware of how much of an idiot I was about allergies before.
This book is heavy on the history, the medicine and the politics of allergies. It may be off-putting to those looking for more anecdote than fact. But I thoroughly enjoyed those aspects of the book and I learned a fair amount I didn't know before about allergies and current research. My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts - especially hazelnuts (!), soy, corn, wheat, apples and a host of environmental allergens. His reactions aren't as severe as Beasley's but we do have to be vigilant (and car ...more
Catherine Gillespie
In Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl, Sandra Beasley writes honestly (and often humorously) about navigating her life with multiple severe allergies. For Beasley, even a kiss on the cheek from a well-meaning relative who just ate a piece of her birthday cake could bring on anaphylactic shock, so the title of the book, while based on a family joke, is not far off the mark.

One point that really hit home for me was Beasley’s observation that rituals and traditions mark milestones in our lives and affirm
Julie King
As a mother of a child with a life-threatening food allergy, I was anxious to read this book. The author does a great job of describing her allergic reactions as well as outlining the scientific history behind food allergies and current theories and treatments as well as their limitations. I did find some of Sandra's thoughts lacking in compassion. She seems to focus in on peanut allergies which have gotten the most press as well as the most focus on treatment options from allergists. She states ...more
I picked up this book because it caught my eye as I was leaving the library one day. It'd been highlighted by our wonderful library staff as a "Hot Pick" and I quickly scanned the back and thought "why not". I'd like to tell you it was a genuine interest in what my children are going through, as children living with severe food allergies (as compared to my rather minor and manageable peanut allergy and my more life threatening, though not terribly problematic in the sense that they don't often " ...more
The unfortunate author of this book is deathly allergic to a whole list of foods: dairy, soy, beef, eggs, etc. And the poor woman is still discovering things she's allergic to--every new food is treated with caution. This book made me grateful that I don't have any allergies.

The title would suggest the book is a memoir, and some of it is, but about half of the book summarizes scientific reports and medical actions that relate to allergies. I liked the memoirs but found the science stuff boring--
Allison Marti
As a mother to a child with multiple and life-threatening food allergies - this book was both of comfort and concern. Comfort because of being able to read that someone "gets it" and can relate/describe what life is like when dealing with this health issue. Concern because of worrying how my daughter will handle it as she gets older - that she will make choices that may jeopardize her life because she is tired of having to explain/be different or have "that conversation" with someone she is dati ...more
Engaging, well researched, eye-opening book. Saying it's about food allergies doesn't capture the readable combination of information and personal experience.
I read this book because I have a toddler who is allergic to milk, beef, soy, and severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. I wanted to hear her view point as an adult living with life-threatening allergies. What bothered me was her stressing how others should not go out of their way to accommodate those with food allergies. Schools should not become nut free and so on. However, she goes on to write that she can't clean up cake or wash her boyfriends coffee cup... Ever heard of gloves? Nor doe ...more
Wish I could get some of my friends and co-workers to read this book. Sandra Beasley, the author hits the nail on the head. Lots of folks don't understand what it means to be severely allergic to foods and chemicals.

Even though the food you want me to eat does not contain allergens, if it has been contaminated by being next to a food that does, can cause a reaction.

It is hard sometimes trying to figure out what an allergic person can eat. Sadly, sometimes it is trial and error. If someone tells
Sami C
Well, that sure didn't take long to finish. Maybe because I had an actual hardcover instead of an ebook? Either way, it was a compelling read.

I don't have allergies at all. There was probably a time when my skin got itchy when I wore fake jewelry, but I'm not sure that was even a thing. I don't know the struggle of taking Benadryl, fumbling for an inhaler, or making sure you have your Epipen with you wherever you go. I dated a guy who has a shellfish allergy, and it sucked because it meant I cou
As someone with a ton of allergies, including several food allergies, I was very interested in this memoir about someone who has it worse off than me. In Don't Kill the Birthday Girl, Sandra takes us through all of the ways that food allergies have affected her, her life, and the lives of those around her. She covers everything from the actual reactions themselves and how she has to carefully choose her foods to how it affected her family and friends, and even her fears (and hopes) for the futur ...more
Sandra Beasley in her memoir shares a plethora of facts relevant to allergies while sharing her life dealing with severe, anaphylaxis inducing allergies that significantly affect how she eats. But, "This is not the story of how we die," she says. "This is the story of how we live."

I would read this book if only for that one remark, so full of courage and hope.
Being a mom of a toddler whose allergies limit him to a few numbered safe foods, hoping for him to outgrow, this book was so relevant to
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Sandra Beasley is the author of I Was the Jukebox, winner of the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize, selected by Joy Harjo and published by W. W. Norton. Her debut book, Theories of Falling, was selected by Marie Howe as the winner of the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2008). Her poetry has been featured in the Best American Poetry 2010, and her nonfiction has been featured ...more
More about Sandra Beasley...
I Was the Jukebox: Poems Theories of Falling (New Issues Poetry & Prose) Count the Waves: Poems None In the Same Room Poems from The Traveler's Vade Mecum

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