Positive: A Memoir: Review

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Positive: A Memoir
by Paige Rawl, with Ali Benjamin
HarperCollins

Reviewed by Alina Oswald

Positive hc c

The word might very well be mightier than the sword, and in more than one way. That’s because words, and the actions they imply and/or encourage, have the power to forever change a person’s life…for better or for worse. Usually, people react to different words in different ways. They connect to “cheerleader,” “beauty pageant” and “honor-roll student” in a completely different way than they do with “HIV,” “AIDS,” “bullying” or “suicide,” for example. Truth is that words from the latter group don’t often make it on the top-ten list of topics discussed at the dinner table…when maybe they should.

Positive is yet another word….Positive is also A Memoir by Paige Rawl, with Ali Benjamin, an eye-opening read daring to take on more—and sometimes less—accepted topics, offering a real-life it-can-happen-to-you kind of story that weaves together cheerleading, participating in (and winning) beauty pageants, and being an honor-roll student, with less popular topics such as living with HIV/AIDS, being bullied, and even attempting suicide. Positive tells the life story of Paige Rawl, documenting her journey of discovery—of her being born with HIV; of her resilience, courage and strength to stand up to her bullies; and also a discovery of herself, as she becomes an accomplished and passionate teen advocate, HIV/AIDS educator, and anti-bullying speaker.

Positive may just be the perfect read for a teen audience—and not only. Proof or maybe reassurance for those still in doubt that HIV/AIDS knows no borders, and that it can truly happen to just about anybody, Positive offers not only a lesson in life—surviving life and its curves—but also a lesson in hope, compassion, and acceptance. Paige Rawl’s story informs, and also enlightens, educates and also inspires, challenges the rest of us to follow in her footsteps, and do our part in making the world a better place, one action and one word at a time.

Alina Oswald, Arts Editor of A&U, is a writer, photographer, and the author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS. Contact her at www.alinaoswald.com.