Paige Rawl's Positive: A Memoir is a poignant coming of age
narrative. At times it is inspiring and uplifting. Some parts are
deeply disturbing. But it is a very worthwhile read with the
potential to move hearts and minds.
Rawls was born with the HIV virus. Her mother had acquired it
from her father and passed it on via pregnancy and childbirth. Her
father died when she was very young. She was only 2 1/2 when her
mother, visiting the doctor for what she thought was the flu,
discovered her HIV status. At first she only worried about leaving
her very young daughter motherless. But then she realized she might
have passed the virus on to her beloved child. Her suspicions were
confirmed right before Rawl's third birthday. There is a very
poignant description of her holding her toddler up to watch the school
buses and wondering of she would ever ride one.
Rawls did indeed live long enough. For many years she did not
know about her difference, the perception of which would tear her
world apart in middle school. Sure she took medicine daily and made
lots of hospital visits. But it was her routine, the world that she
knew. She was in fourth grade when she saw HIV+ on her dental chart.
In fifth grade she learned about HIV and AIDS in health class and
asked her mother if she was HIV positive.
In sixth grade Rawl was at a school lockdown, a school slumber
party with many fun activities. A friend told her about her mother
who had multiple sclerosis. A best friend confided worries about a
family member with psychological challenges who would be staying at
her home. To make her feel not so alone Rawl told her about her HIV
status, sure it was no different from the health problems that
complicated so many other people's lives.
In Rawl's peers' minds it wasn't. By the next morning the news
had spread through the whole gathering. People including that best
friend were ostracizing her, treating her as dangerous damaged goods.
The adults who were supposed to be there to protect her failed
spectacularly. A guidance counselor advised her to lie about having
HIV. A soccer coach even wanted to use her status to the team's
advantage. If members of other teams were afraid of touching her she
would be able to score lots of goals.
Yes, there is a lot of sadness in the book. But there is also
an abundance of courage, transcendence, and joy. It is one of the
volumes perfect for young people bored with most YA fare but not ready
to go all adult. It's also a must read for parents, teachers, school
admin, superintendents, and guidance counselors.
Finally I feel that school committee members would benefit
immensely from reading Positive. We make the policies that determine
how teachers and admin can deal with issues like bullying. To make an
analogy (which I am slightly less fond of since recently taking
Millers) policies are to teachers and admin as rules of the road are
to drivers. I very much want to be wrong, but I have the nagging
suspicion that sometimes we're guided (by lawyers) to make policies
with lawsuit prevention as a highest priority. I would also suggest
that these lawyers read the book if I had an iota of confidence that
On a personal note, I can tell you about taking Millers. I was
waiting at the bus stop to go to the University to take Millers
Analogy Test to get into grad school. Then I realized there is no
7:15 bus on Saturdays and the 8:15 would get me there too late. There
was not enough time to walk. What you have to realize is I don't run
because I get shin splints and I'm not into pain. But I decided to
run those five or so miles. It was like someone who actually knew
what she was doing had taken over my body. I was well along when I
friend saw me and gave me a ride the rest of the way! If
determination can make it happen I will so get in.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow standardized test takers.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod