My Journey through a Toxic World

Non-Fiction - Memoir
305 Pages
Reviewed on 07/09/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Sensitive: My Journey Through A Toxic World is a work of memoir non-fiction penned by author Pookie Sekmet. After unknowingly being exposed to dangerous chemicals when she was a baby, the author grew up experiencing strange sensations and illnesses which then took years to retrace before she knew what was causing these reactions to toxicity in the world around her. But from this struggle, a unique personality is spawned, and Pookie goes on to live an enlightened and alternative life, becoming a freedom fighter against corruption and patriarchal control in the corporate world. This episodic memoir tells the tale of how she developed this strength and empowerment despite her sensitivity to so much in the modern world.

I found author Pookie Sekmet’s story absolutely inspiring in every way. As someone who lives with chronic illness and terrible intolerances myself, I totally related to and understood her harrowing journey of diagnosis, which was filled with heartfelt narration, honesty and highly emotive reflections on that time period of her life. I also really enjoyed Pookie’s personality as a whole, with delightfully dry humor and intelligent little moments peppered throughout the stories which just make you smile all the time. As the most righteous period of the memoir begins, there’s a real swell of emotions and pride for the great work done to break down barriers, and the book takes you from somewhat humble and disadvantaged beginnings to a truly motivational tale of success. Overall, Sensitive is a memoir to be enjoyed, but also to learn from and be inspired by.

Ruffina Oserio

Sensitive: My Journey Through a Toxic World by Pookie Sekmet is a memoir that chronicles the life of a Harvard-educated CPA with a chronic chemical intolerance that has made life difficult and rendered her unemployable. In this memoir, she shares her frustrations, taking readers through her family and medical history, and the pain of not being understood by her family who sees her as unfit for normal human relationships, untold emotional trauma, and the medical experts who can't properly diagnose her condition.

The narrative is done in a tone that is lively and spiced with humor. Pookie Sekmet writes with unusual clarity and this partly reveals her acute awareness and her sensitive nature. I loved how she pulls readers into her world view and connects with them. From the very beginning, we get a vivid glimpse of the protagonist: "I am a middle-aged white woman and my malady has made me unemployable. I groom myself without flair and wear undistinguished clothing. Sometimes I walk the single long block from my house to the post office wearing the same pilled char-coal gray hoodie and dark plaid pajama bottoms that I just slept in."

She shares secrets into her self-diagnosis, her pursuit of the truth, and how she transitioned from seeing herself as psychologically impaired into someone who understood the need to look at her life with disciplined clarity, understanding her nature and accepting who she really is. Along the way, the author delves into themes of truth, emotional and psychological trauma, family dynamics, corporate corruption, and self-protection. Sensitive: My Journey Through a Toxic World is a well-crafted memoir with strong and relevant themes, a story that tells everyone how our relationship with our environment can make or break who we are.

Gisela Dixon

Sensitive: My Journey through a Toxic World by Pookie Sekmet is a non-fiction memoir of Pookie’s life and journey navigating chemical sensitivity and the functional disabilities resulting from this. In this book, Pookie details her life throughout by dividing various phases and events of it into chapters. Each chapter talks about a specific aspect of her life and illness. She talks about her early years, family background and upbringing in detail, her siblings, her parents’ relationship, the early causes of her chemical sensitivity and the challenges it caused her to face both in her job as well as personal life, and finally about the illness itself which is called multiple chemical sensitivities or MCS or, specifically, toxicant-induced loss of tolerance or TILT. Pookie herself refers to this as simply chemical intolerance. There is also an appendix with some resources and afterword in this book.

Sensitive is a story about battling disorders or mental illnesses that can be invisible illnesses to the world. Unlike something like cancer or the flu, which people readily sympathize with and understand, there is often less sympathy for mental illnesses or personality disorders. This book details the day-to-day challenges that someone with chemical sensitivities lives with and the challenges it poses. Pookie writes in a fluid and fast-paced style while talking about various times in her life as she tried to understand the nature of her illness and the truth behind it. She also writes about the trauma and neglect that lack of understanding from one’s parents or peers causes, which is unfortunately all too common. Overall, this is a good read.

Maria Beltran

Sensitive: My Journey Through a Toxic World by Pookie Sekmet is a memoir and a shocking revelation of the contaminants and toxins that we are all bombarded with every day, literally and figuratively. Exposed to some kind of chemical at a young age, Pookie Sekmet's nervous system was irreparably damaged so that later exposures caused her to have a broad-based intolerance to even low levels of commonly used chemicals and fragrances. The daughter of a seemingly liberal-minded history professor and a psychologist, she struggled with health as well as family issues and came out of it badly bruised but absolutely not beaten.

Pookie Sekmet's Sensitive: My Journey Through a Toxic World is an informative and revealing story about a middle-aged woman struggling with an unusual debilitating chemical intolerance and family issues that may sound vaguely familiar to many of us. And in writing her memoir, the author exposes her journey in trying to find the truth and eventually her acceptance of the way things are. Hers is an interesting life journey that resulted in empowerment. This is the essence of the memoir because it discusses the overpowering stench of our selfishly driven modern-day society and how one woman stands up to it so that when we go about our daily lives, surrounded by political and corporate lies, we may find the courage to not only protect ourselves but to fight back in any way possible. Always sincere, sometimes skeptical, Pookie Sekmet is perhaps a small voice in a sea of greedy, power-hungry sharks, but it should be heard by all.

Vincent Dublado

We inhale, ingest, and absorb. What used to be our body’s healthy relationship with the environment is now replaced with fear of things we cannot easily perceive. The air and everything around us is now saturated by dangerous chemicals, and we don’t know that it is killing us slowly. Pookie Sekmet is a human case study, and she offers help in her bold memoir, Sensitive: My Journey Through a Toxic World. She gives us a walk through what it is like to live with "Multiple Chemical Sensitivities" or what is referred to as "toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT)." Incapacitated by intolerance to fragrances and common chemicals, she endures a debilitating condition that has made her unemployable, socially awkward, and shunning the olfactory-driven world. Her illness is due to the unseen toxins polluting our environment, and this has made her sharper in detecting what is invisible to the naked eye. She chronicles the anatomy of her illness and gives us an unabashed look at her life as a sickly child and being raised in a family that rejects consumerist junk.

Ms. Sekmet wrote her memoir in the hopes of helping us develop an awareness of how to stay safe and healthier in a chemical-polluted world. Just because you are not chemical-sensitive does not mean you are immune to its toxicity. It is easy to declare that Ms. Sekmet writes with a clear bias, given that her crusade is driven by her rare condition and that she hinges primarily on experience as her claim to authority. But we cannot reprimand her for that, as the number of toxic substances in our surroundings continues to increase at an alarming rate, and thousands of these chemicals are not yet evaluated for their health effects. She recommends staying indoors and purchasing fragrance-free products among other seemingly uphill alternatives that require the doing away of anything that has a smell. Hence, the emphasis on “as much as you can.” Still, Sensitive remains timely in addressing an overlooked health issue.