Title: Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse
Author: Shane Burcaw
Genre: YA Memoir
Number of Pages: 208
Although Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse was not quite as funny as I hoped it might be (considering it’s marketed as a humorous memoir, and I only chuckled a few times) it’s warm, eye-opening and full of heart. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book with a character with Spinal Muscular Atrophy before, and I’ve definitely never read anything written by a person who suffered from the condition.
Shane Burcaw is a writer (obviously) and an activist who, along with his cousin Sarah (great name!), formed the organization Laughing at My Nightmare which helps kids with Muscular Dystrophy and similar conditions (Laughing at My Nightmare is also the name of his first book, which I haven’t read yet.)
Shane Burcaw needs help eating, getting in and out of his wheelchair and going to the bathroom. His illness is degenerative and he’s constantly aware of his own mortality, which he deals with by making jokes. Along with co-running an organization, he’s also found love with Hannah, a woman he met online.
He writes a lot about the problematic ways people treat him as someone with a severe, visible disability. It was crazy reading about the things people do, like praying over him and telling how inspirational he is and even randomly giving him money. He also had an unfortunate stint as one of ‘Jerry’s Kids.’ I don’t know much about SMA but I feel like I learned a lot from this book.
It also made me think about how people make people with disabilities feel demeaned, sometimes just by being clueless. This book covered a lot of different subjects regarding life with a disability in an accessible, matter of fact and entertaining way. Shane Burcaw seems like a cool and down-to-earth person, and I think his writing will provide hope to people facing similar health issues and their families.