Book Review: Positive: A Memoir

Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin

Paige Rawl was born HIV positive, but for most of her childhood, the illness never defined her life. All she knew was that she had to take some horrible medicine on a daily basis and visit the hospital frequently. But aside from that she was living life to the fullest. An all-rounder, she did well in school, played soccer and was a cheerleader. However, life took a dive when she entered middle school. She became best friends with a girl called Yasmine, and one day when trying to console Yasmine, brought up her HIV status in conversation. The news sread fast. Paige lost her closest friend and her trust in people. She became the target of bullies and was called nasty names in person, poison letters and graffiti.

Even the adults at school were unhelpful; not only were they unable to stop the bullying, they discredited her discomfort and accused her of stirring up trouble. Her soccer coach even made jokes about her. Paige suffered the bullying, which led her to sink into depression and a suicide attempt. She survived and sought refuge with the people who shared and sympathised with her story.

Paige’s memoir is penned in simple yet poignant and relatable prose. Her resilience and courage shines through her moving stag], and many readers have marvelled about how much of an inspiration and role mode she is. Her story delivers a powerful message – she couldn’t change other people. but she could change her life, take her future in her own hands. and then perhaps try to change the world. She put her revelation into action, and today, she is an active advocate for youths with HIV and AIDS, and actively speaks out against bullying.

The language is simple and easily digested by teenagers and adolescents. In fact, the book is probably most suited for a teenage audience, who will personally encounter many of the themes illustrated in the book, such as bullying, being different, the dangers of ignorance and fear of something unknown. Nevertheless, a story about courage is always appreciated regardless of age group. Parents and teachers especially, may value the book for the lessons they can impart to children and teenagers.

0n the flipside, the story is told in a largely American setting. Many international readers found the resources mentioned in the book for HIV-positive and AIDS patients to be useful, but these resources would largely not be applicable in Singapore. There is also some reference to American pop culture and society that may be lost to local readers.

– This book review first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.