Jessica Taylor-Bearman wins The People’s Book Prize!

Tony Britton, PR and Fundraising Manager, ME Association

A Girl Behind Dark Glasses

We watched Jessica Taylor-Bearman growing up – from taking her first wobbly steps in Burrswood Hospital after years of physiotherapy, marrying Samuel surrounded by family and friends, the arrival of baby Felicity, that first book of self-discovery and poignant memories, the bookshop signings…

The cameras were there, they adored her, and she passionately helped raise awareness of her journey and the devastation that is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.).

Then suddenly, last week, Jessica, the girl behind dark glasses, found herself alone, at home…

She had put on a fabulous emerald green halter-neck dress with pearl earrings before sitting down on her sofa to watch a computer screen. Her hair was up, loose tendrils framing her face. 

And there – something her wildest imagining never thought would happen after she became severely ill at the age of 15 – she saw world-famous novelist Frederick Forsyth announce that she had won the annual People’s Book Prize for Non-Fiction!

How good was that? The 29-year-old had beaten 13 other writers on the short list with her first book to win an award voted by readers themselves. She didn’t even have to go to the normal awards ceremony to hear the news as the covid lockdown had cancelled out large gatherings.  

That turned out to be a blessing. As Jessica confided on her website after the ceremony:  

“The lavish awards ceremony in London was not possible. The organisers tried everything but, in the end, it was decided that a zoom meeting would have to do. But it meant that I could go to it, as I wouldn’t have been well enough to go to London.”

Video of the moment she heard:

https://twitter.com/jayletay/status/1286547385309630464

What a turn-up for her book published in 2017 and which told her life story including the years stuck in bed in hospital with tubes keeping her alive as she overcame the most severe form of the condition. The tiny walks towards the end that told she was improving. 

In her excitement immediately afterwards, with the adrenaline pumping, she bashed out tweets and emails to friends and followers all the way round the world and woke us all up with her most excellent news.  

She even found time to answer some dumb ex-journalist’s questions from the ME Association. You know the type. You hear them all the time on the news. “How did you feel when you heard the news, Jessica?” Such stupid questions!

In the end, the inevitable happened. She crashed. Her last tweet of the night announced that she was signing off as she felt sick and was in a lot of pain.  

Jessica’s signing off tweet for the night: 

The following day she found enough energy to put a little thank you message up on her website to all her supporters: 

“The adrenaline has now left me; my body has crashed, and I am feeling it. It is an exhaustion that physically hurts and makes me feel sick. I will be off grid for a couple of days, but please keep sharing so we can keep the momentum up. I will be back.”

Jessica Taylor-Bearman

Jessica’s husband, Samuel, will be looking after her messages in the meantime. 

And her legion of friends and supporters? Well, get ready with the voting slips once again next year. Jessica tells us that the sequel to ‘A Girl Behind Dark Glasses’ will be out in January 2021. It will be called ‘A Girl in One Room’.

And we are certain it will be another rivetingly good read! 

The ME Association

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