Bee Lavender, . . Akashic/Punk Planet, $12.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-888451-79-5

Lavender, writer and online publisher of the parenting zine Hip Mama , holds nothing back as she recounts her life spent in and out of hospitals and her subsequent dissociation from her own body and emotions. She struggles with health problems from birth, which are compounded by her surroundings, including frequent encounters with street fights, domestic violence and poverty. Her voice is as strong as the front she puts up for the multitude of doctors she sees, and it's hard not to be in awe of what one fragile human being can withstand in the course of such a short lifetime (Lavender is now 35). Before Lavender has graduated from high school, she's endured cancer of the throat and skin (diagnosed as terminal at one point), cysts requiring massive jaw surgery, life-threatening allergies, internal infections and a major car accident resulting in multiple serious injuries. While Lavender herself steers far from any sort of self-aggrandizing, and her prose is somewhat inexpert, witnessing her strength and sheer determination to live makes this striking book completely engrossing. When questioned once about how she sees herself, Lavender explains, "primary identity is found in my body, in the scars, in the injuries and injustice and disease and decay." Lavender's struggles continue as she faces childbirth and recurrent health difficulties, but as her challenges grow, so does her strength to meet them, and this unforgettable memoir ends with Lavender's desire to "live as much as possible while I have the time." (Apr.)