Despite its flaws, this book may be useful for families affected by porphyria and may interest others frustrated by flawed...

Purple Canary


A mother helps her daughter cope with a rare disease in this memoir.

Debut author Gould describes her yearslong quest to help her adopted daughter, Jill, who was afflicted with a rare genetic disorder called acute intermittent porphyria starting at age 11. Its symptoms include severe diarrhea, convulsions, and fainting; this caused problems at Jill’s Connecticut school, including frequent absences and trips to the hospital as well as bullying by other students. School officials were largely unsympathetic, the author says, even accusing Jill of being an “attention-seeking faker.” Gould also says that some doctors initially misdiagnosed the affliction, including one who decided that the girl suffered from bipolar disorder. After a genetic test linked Jill to AIP, she received infusions of a blood factor called heme, which seemed to help. But problems persisted, especially at school, leading Gould to believe that “a building filled with toxic chemicals and toxic people”—cleaners, wet erasers, and stress-inducing bullies—were triggering her daughter’s attacks. Tutoring and transfers to other schools didn’t solve the problem, however, although sometimes Jill did improve a bit. By the end of this sad tale, though, Jill is a suicidal heroin addict. In addition to her daughter’s tragic story, Gould also presents some AIP research and websites as well as some of Jill’s own first-person observations. Overall, this book offers a troubling account, and its broadest contribution is how it highlights the difficulties that people with unusual problems face in the American public school and health care systems. Although the author doesn’t prove that toxins at school triggered her daughter’s attacks, she makes some credible assertions. Unfortunately, she bogs the narrative down with too much description of bullying and “ridiculous middle school drama,” and her fondness for acronyms is distracting: “the PPT to set the IEP would be held at KPS.” The prose shows occasional flair, as when Gould describes when a baby Jill “plopped forward like a folded taco.” However, it sometimes suffers from clichés and repetition; for example, the author’s “head bells” always seem to be “clanging” or “jangling,” and people read one another “the riot act” more than once.

Despite its flaws, this book may be useful for families affected by porphyria and may interest others frustrated by flawed education and medical systems in the United States.

Pub Date: June 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-988186-99-3

Page Count: 358

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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