Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin
“Maybe being broken helps you become a better person” (Rawl and Benjamin 162).
This week was devoted to reading a YA non-fiction book called Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl. It’s a story about Paige, whom was born with HIV and her struggles with bullying, depression, suicide, and resiliency. Paige was born into this world unknowingly affected with HIV. It wasn’t until her third birthday when her mother was diagnosed with HIV that Paige was found to also be infected. Paige tells a beautiful story of a loving mother that would do anything for the daughter she loves and the fight against bullying once her status is discovered.
Paige was never aware of the stigma that her condition came with. As long as she could remember, doctors, hospitals, and medication were all the norms in her life. So when she finally makes it to middle school (which she was so excited for), she has no idea that telling her “best friend” about her HIV diagnosis would set off a chain reaction of events. Once the bullying began, the once extremely self-assured young girl endures isolation and bullying (not only from other students but from teachers and coaches as well). In one part, Paige tells about her soccer coach who tells Paige and her mom that the team can use Paige’s HIV status as an advantage; the other teams will be too afraid to touch her and Paige can score all the points (Rawl and Benjamin 120). In the end, Paige learns to love herself again and is able to be a voice for others as she and her mother take a stand against the prejudices that she had to endure.
This is such a wonderfully written book that is split into four parts: Beginning, Stumbling, Falling, and Becoming. Throughout each section, she peppers her stories with flashbacks of her family and facts about HIV. This is one of the most emotional books I have read, and it is so beautifully written. I cannot say enough about this book and its positive message, especially for teens. The book also has a section devoted to helpful information on HIV/AIDS and bullying. I think this should be a required reading for all teens, because it does show what bullying can do to a person and how each and every person, no matter their differences, deserve to be in a safe environment.