Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Before I Forget (BOOK REVIEW)

Before I Forget
Love, Hope, Help and Acceptance in Our Fight against Alzheimer's
by B. Smith and Dan Gasby
Harmony Books
Hardcover, $25.00
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-553-44712-5

Book Review by Kam Williams

Restaurateur, magazine publisher, celebrity chef and nationally-known lifestyle maven B. Smith is struggling at 66 with a tag she never expected to add to that string: Alzheimer's patient... Part memoir, part caregiver's guide, this work is a unique entry on the Alzheimer's shelf.
Crafted in short chapters that interweave [B. and husband Dan's] narrative with practical and helpful advice, readers learn about dealing with the day-to-day challenges of Alzheimer's, family realities and tensions, ways of coping, and coming research that may tip the scale, as well as lessons learned along the way.
At its heart, Before I Forget is a love story illuminating a love of family, life and hope.”
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

Barbara Elaine Smith was born on August 24, 1949 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Florence and William, a maid and a steelworker, respectively. The darling, little daughter would grow up to do her parents proud, embarking on a series of phenomenally-successful professional careers. 
She started out as a model, becoming the first African-American to grace the cover of Mademoiselle. The talented Renaissance woman parlayed that success into endorsement deals and her own nationally-syndicated TV show, "B. Smith with Style." 
She would also launch her own product line, publish a magazine and several cookbooks, and open restaurants in Manhattan, Washington, DC and out on Sag Harbor. With the help of her husband, B. built such a formidable business empire that she became widely known as "The Black Martha Stewart." 
Unfortunately, upon consulting a doctor a couple of years ago because of a nagging forgetfulness, she received the devastating diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's. Although she and Dan have since reordered their priorities, the two have steadfastly refused to allow the disease to either crush their spirits or diminish their love for each other. As B. puts it, "I'm still myself. I just can't remember things as well as I once did." 
In "Before I Forget," she and Dan share their inspirational message of hope while issuing a rallying a cry to the African-American community which suffers from Alzheimer's at over twice the rate of whites. The autobiography primarily focuses on the last five years of B.'s life, although it does devote a few chapters to earlier periods, including her childhood in Pennsylvania. 
However, the thrust of the book is to kickstart a frank conversation about Alzheimer's from recognizing the warning signs, to identifying its stages, to reciting lesson's learned thus far. Above all, the memoir is a reaffirmation of a couple's undying love, as evidenced by Dan's waxing romantic with, "I am so grateful for the honor and pleasure of your company, and for the privilege of sharing your life." 

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