Meet Christina Adams, food explorer, writer, camel milk expert, and author of CAMEL CRAZY: A Quest for Miracles in the Mysterious World of Camels.
I was at a children’s book fair in Orange County, California. I was a newly separated mother of a 7-year-old son with autism. I’d just spent five years researching and publishing articles and a book about autism and medical issues. While my son was happily reading a book in the grass, I was bored and saw a camel nearby. Being a journalist by training, I wondered, why is a camel here if no kids are riding it? I saw the owner nearby selling soaps and lotions made with camel milk. Out of curiosity, I asked him, “What else do they do with the milk?” He said it was given to premature infants in Middle Eastern hospitals, as it was thought to be non-allergenic and might be close to human breast milk. I immediately had the idea that it might help ‘reboot’ my son’s immune system and help his autism symptoms, as they are often tied to immune dysfunction in kids with autism spectrum disorders. I also thought it would be a great dairy substitute for other people who couldn't tolerate regular dairy. Cow milk and cheese made him hand-flap and walk in circles, signs of autism, which he described as feeling like “having dirt in my brain.” Vegan substitutes like rice, nut, or soy increased his allergic response, as seen in blood tests.
There was nearly no information on camel milk online, and nothing about autism. A few months into my search, I found an article by two Israeli doctors, reporting that children in Israel with autism and food allergies improved on camel milk. This confirmed my idea. A Pakistani friend brought me some from Israel. But it was dumped by US customs. I called an Israeli number he’d gotten. The person who answered gave me a number for a camel milk seller. The seller and I had no common language, so he referred me to a scientist and cancer researcher. Over various Skype discussions, he and I formed a hypothesis about camel milk and autism. Then he helped me fly in some frozen bottles of Bedouin camel milk from the Israeli desert, which I picked up in Los Angeles. I started flying in more. It was very costly and risky but the milk made the trip safely every time.
That A. people with autism and other health conditions will be helped by camel milk, as it’s a natural and highly special food with healing qualities. B. That camels will gain a public profile, which they need in order to be understood and protected, and don’t really have right now and C. that readers get an incredible ride through the dazzling world of camels and their devoted caregivers with me, and get their hearts warmed by how different cultures can come together to help children and camels.
I worked hard to get unheard voices included in this book, including Amish, Mennonites, Hindus, Muslims, nomadic people, and people with autism. I know they will make you smile, think, and maybe cry, as they did me. I want people to learn that there are amazing forms of knowledge out there, that are very valid yet lost to modern ears. That we must respect the knowledge of mothers, and other cultures because we need each other to survive and thrive in today’s world, with its various climate, health, and political challenges.
If you want to get your special story out there, or if you are just born to write, then yes, I do. If you have other things to do, then do those instead (I’m smiling). Writing a book is very arduous physically and very selfish time-wise, but I love it and I would encourage anyone with the desire to try it.
I learned that persistence is the key and not giving up is part of that. You have to make the determination that you will finish a manuscript, and setting a schedule to do it is the way to go. Then finding an agent and a publisher is another form of persistence. Yet, even if you are rejected by the gatekeepers, there are many ways to get a book in print now. I do recommend taking classes because honing your writing is a never-ending process and you can also network with people who will help you along the way.
Right now I am still in the thick of book touring, doing media and such. I have done about 60+ interviews so far, mostly radio, with some tv and print. I’ll be teaching a memoir class at Beyond Baroque on May 9 in Venice, CA, and speaking at the Laguna Beach Women’s Club on April 26. All events are open to the public. Come join me and let’s talk about writing and the mysterious world of camels!
New York Times best-selling author Caroline Levitt says, “This book can change the world.” National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery calls it “fascinating and important.” Best-selling author Jen Pastiloff calls it “magical…I want everyone to read this book. ” Geneticist and author Dr. Ricky Lewis calls it “mesmerizing.” Richard McCarthy of Slow Food International calls it, “Heroic, a joy to read and an important reminder…that animals matter and biodiversity matters.” Randy Fertel, cofounder of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, says,” I was looking for a camel milk source by page 38.” Famed Virginia farmer-author Joel Salatin contributes a passionate foreword. Barnes and Noble called it “must-read nonfiction” and it was featured by the Public Library of Science DNA Genetics Blog