Our "A Book That Shaped Me" Finalist

Southeast Library

Our "A Book That Shaped Me" Finalist

Southeast Library user Gracie D. talks with us about reading, writing and allergies

Gracie DMeet Gracie D, writer, reader, library lover and a state finalist in the Library of Congress’ “ A Book That Shaped Me” essay contest. Gracie wrote about the book Wonder by R.J. Palaccio, which tells the story of Auggie, a boy with a severe facial deformity, through the points of view of himself, his friends and his family.

We caught up with Gracie and her mom for a chat in our garden.
So, Gracie, congratulations! Why did you choose to write about Wonder?
Thanks! I think I chose it because of what it shows. People say that appearances or difficulties define you, which I don’t think is true, but they do influence how people treat you. Wonder shows that. I have severe allergies and am treated differently because of them, so I connected there.

You connected with Auggie’s character?
People can’t see the deformity on me like they can with Auggie. When I walk down the street, people don’t stare. But I feel stared at on the inside. I feel myself staring at me.

What sorts of things are you allergic too, and what does it feel like?
Oh, umm, egg and soy, though I got to have my first boiled egg at age 11½. All tree nuts, fish and shell fish, tropical fruits, chickpeas, cockroaches, citrus, avocado, watermelon… 
Gracie’s Mom: The nut allergies are airborne, which is rare. She literally cannot be near anyone eating nuts or she goes into anaphylaxis. We were on a flight once, and a woman opened a bag of nuts a few rows ahead of us when the plane was landing — we had to have a medical crew meet us at the gate and rush her to the hospital.
Gracie: Normally, my tongue gets fuzzy, my throat itches, my head pounds, my voice gets hoarse. I panic when my throat starts to close.

You’ve lived your whole life with these restricting, severe allergies. How did reading Wonder change you?
Some kids have allergies as severe as mine, but there is like a 1 in a trillion chance of having a facial deformity like Auggie’s. It changes how people act toward him, but as Auggie teaches others, you see how his facial deformity doesn’t define him.

My allergies change how people act towards me. Our classroom is nut free, and kids will say stuff like, “Yeah, because of Gracie.” I felt defined by my allergy, but Auggie doesn’t let his challenges define who he is. I love that. It made me think about my own challenges differently.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Gracie. What are you currently reading, and do you have any other books that you’d like to recommend?
Well, right now I’m reading Star Girl and The Fault in Our Stars. They’re good so far.

I recommend the Inheritance cycle, Riverside Shakespeare, both Percy Jackson series, Where the Red Fern Grows, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes...it really depends on the genre someone likes, but these are some of my overall favorites.

They’re some of our favorites too! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, and again, congratulations!
Thank you!