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

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,765 ratings  ·  366 reviews
A beautifully written and darkly funny journey through the world of the allergic.

Like twelve million other Americans, Sandra Beasley suffers from food allergies. Her allergies—severe and lifelong—include dairy, egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish, and mustard. Add to that mold, dust, grass a
Hardcover, 229 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by Crown
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  1,765 ratings  ·  366 reviews

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Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
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
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Erin Nudi
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-books, food
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
Jun 06, 2012 rated it liked 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
Jun 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nancy Kennedy
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, food, health
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. ...more
Simeon Berry
Jun 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jennifer Wilson
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Julie King
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Kelly Hager
Jun 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Beasley missed a big opportunity with this book. She could have really gotten into the nitty gritty of food allergies and life with multiple allergies, but instead she struggles to find balance between memoir and science.

The book jumps all over the place to the point that it is almost impossible to follow. Each chapter floats back and forth between personal stories and research with almost no connection between the two. I often couldn't figure out how she got from point A to point B, because the
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Engaging, well researched, eye-opening book. Saying it's about food allergies doesn't capture the readable combination of information and personal experience. ...more
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
Half memoir, half nonfiction reference about food allergies and their history, prevalence, and the science behind the different sorts of allergic reactions, this was an interesting, if at times, a little dry, read. Sandra Beasley is allergic to so many foods- I enjoyed the memoir part of this book way more than the science and history- it is a viewpoint that a lot of parents who do not have kids with food allergies struggle to understand, though I find it interesting that Beasley is not necessar ...more
Kaitlyn Concilio
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sandra Beasley is an allergy sufferer, and she has plenty of funny/terrifying anecdotes to share. She's also well-researched on the topic, and provides lots of useful scientific information about how allergies actually work.

I was once a food allergy skeptic. Not that I totally disbelieved in their existence, of course: I was fully aware there people out there who could have up to and including fatal reactions to eating certain foodstuffs. I more fell in along the lines of accepting the need for
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
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sandra Beasley is allergic to "...dairy (including goat's milk), egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish, and mustard...[she's] also allergic to mold, dust, grass and tree pollen, cigarette smoke, dogs, rabbits, horses, and wool." (p.2) Sandra was born in 1980 long before food allergies were more common. Her family was nothing short of heroic in their attempts to find things for her to eat, especially on the occasions ...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
Allison Marti
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all those with allergies and/or asthma
I have about 30 food allergies so I always enjoy reading this book as its nice not to be alone. My mother was the opposite of Sandra's Mom as she would force me to eat tomatoes to which I am allergic. The fact that I lost my voice didn't bother her any!

I was having very severe asthma about 30 years ago and so I had the RAST test. I have read some bad things about it but for me it was a life saver. Orange Juice was killing me but I had no clue as my throat did not swell like it does with some t
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 he
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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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

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