Don’t Kill The Birthday Girl: Tales From an Allergic Life, written by poet Sandra Beasley, is a memoir about living with severe food allergies. Beasley tackles a lot within these pages: she educates her readers on daily issues food allergies present, as well as the social, cultural, and historical issues, dispelling myths in the process. Readers may be surprised at how their thought process changes after reading each chapter. A reader might not put only one serving spoon in a barrel of tri-flavored gift popcorn again, or perhaps think twice before ordering food for a group, or ask themselves, this time with true interest, just what is inside that secret sauce. Food fights and college drinking games suddenly have a whole new set of hazards other than possibly slipping on the floor and breaking a bone.
Beasley does not appear to be an activist: she is never didactic, and encourages reason over fear. She makes serious points with great doses of humor. But in some ways one cannot be severely allergic to food and not be an activist. She discusses peanuts, soy, wheat, Communion, school parties, college cafeterias, Colonal Sanders, Kellog, George Washington Carver, and much more with an intention not to pursuade but to educate, and she does it the way a favorite school teacher does it — by entertaining and having fun with her audience.
Then there is the window to her family she opens for her readers. Her mother makes it her mission to see that Beasley can eat something, anything, and call it a meal. Her father interrogates restaurant chefs one moment and soothes his daughter on rides to the hospital emergency room the next. Her younger sister chooses not to eat certain foods, by becoming a vegetarian, while Beasley would do anything to have the option; Beasley fights her own world view in order to accept her sister’s choice.
If Sandra Beasley can write a memoir with such vulnerable honesty, passion and humor about a serious topic, where “Don’t Kill The Birthday Girl” is both a running joke and an omnipresent warning, then just think how good her poetry must be!
Don’t Kill The Birthday Girl is 240 pages and published by Crown, and can be ordered from Amazon.