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28: Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie…

28: Stories of AIDS in Africa (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Stephanie Nolen

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189997,153 (4.41)22
Twenty-eight anecdotal stories that chronicle men, women, and children involved in every aspect of the African AIDS crisis.
Title:28: Stories of AIDS in Africa
Authors:Stephanie Nolen
Info:Walker & Company (2007), Hardcover, 375 pages
Collections:Your library

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28: Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen (2007)


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Nolen's 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa is nothing short of incredible. Her approach, her writing, and her weaving of all of the material--personal, political, medical, cultural, environmental, local and global--are nothing short of impeccable. I've read many, many books (fiction and nonfiction) related to HIV/AIDS, many of them specifically connected to Africa and/or African writers, and this book eclipses all of them in nearly every way.

Nolen tells the stories of 28 individuals in Africa, all affected by AIDS, in order to weave a fuller picture of the disease and the factors complicating treatment, and even acknowledgement and diagnosis. In the process, she manages to write what is not just a powerful book which illustrates in 28 chapters the lives of 28 incredibly different people, living different lives in different countries, but a book which does more to paint a complete picture of this disease and related cultural territory than any book I've seen has even suggested. Delving into history, war and conflict, birth control, sex work, religion, politics, gender roles, civil rights, poverty, cultural appropriation, trade, environmental degredation, pharmaceuticals, and education (or lack thereof), Nolen does more in this book to paint a picture of the unfolding of AIDS, and its impact, than anything else I've seen.

And, beyond that, there are 28 stories here which she tells masterfully, bringing men, women, and children to life on each page of this work, and in a way that makes the issues she addresses that much easier to understand.

It is a difficult book to read, but it is also a book full of hope and community and determination. But, as Bono is quoted on the back cover: "This is a formidable book of record... from the tiny virus, via twenty-eight individual human stories, to an entire continent. The stories will tear you apart before putting you back together, fully armed and ready to go to war..."

You might be thinking this book is a bit dated, but the truth is that this book is an incredible and timely record of the way history, disease, and a thousand complicating factors unfolded into a crisis that is still going on. And, what's more, this is a book that actively works against apathy--you cannot read this and not understand why your hands and your voice matters in this world, and at a time when apathy and 'what can I do?' are echoing across the globe, I believe that's incredibly important.

I hope you find it, read it, and then pass it on to other readers. This is the kind of book we should all be reading. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Dec 10, 2018 |
Anyway, the book (other than the omission of the pages) was truly amazing. I was recommended it by a friend and I have an interest in that sort of thing so I bought it and I honestly didn't think I was as ignorant about the subject as I turned out to be. I always pride myself on being kinda savvy and stuff about world issues but that was completely thrown out the water. It's a great book - and there's stories from everyone from all walks of life in it. A prostitute old enough to be a grandmother who is immune to the disease, a little boy who got held back in school because he was too sick to pass his final exams, the girl who had lost her parents and was looking after her little brother who was dependant on the people of the village to look after them, lorry drivers, educators, soldiers, wives, husbands, aid workers, doctors, scientist - everyone. I don't know, I think because it delivered it in such a way that in the small snapshot you got you learned a little more. The misconception that the soldier had that as long as the prostitute was fat then he didn't have to worry about catching anything, the excuse of some official that there was no point giving African's drugs because they 'told the time using the sun' and wouldn't be able to adhere to the timing methods necessary to follow the guidelines because of it, the artist who always wore a condom but got infected because he went to help a neighbour after a break-in and he got injured and his blood crossed with an infected supply...

It's just a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone. It's an eye-opener and although the stories are about something tragic and the numbers and some of the things that happen are tragic, it isn't a book that is solely about that, which sounds weird but it's true. ( )
  sunnycouger | Sep 20, 2013 |
This book did not tear me apart and make me anew, or whatever it is Bono suggests to that effect on the back cover. But I think, and suspect Nolen and most of her interviewees would agree, that that’s not the most useful response to AIDS in Africa anyway. (Like, hasn’t HIV already torn enough people apart?) Instead, what we get here is a deep and multiple picture of the epidemic, right from its beginnings (in the 1930s!) in southeastern Cameroon, as simian immunodeficiency virus passed from apes to humans (I always thought it was ape bites that did it, but apparently it was the practice of eating chimpanzees, still common at that time, which adds this funny atavistic thing—a lot more powerful and awful than the idea that HIV is God punishing gays or whatever is the idea that we got it from eating our closest living relatives). Then we get the emergence and horrid blossoming of “Slim,” as it was known in Uganda in the seventies, and the changes it’s wrought to African societies, and the efforts to fight it.
Nolen is quite good on a wide-angle journalist’s version of the history of the disease, but she excels at the rendering of the human stories with just enough background and context to set them off, like a cameo of a mother who died in childbirth. Some stories are long, some short, some more reporterly, some memoiristic or eulogistic, of the living and the dead and the disappeared, of friends and strangers and the great and good, like Nelson Mandela, whose conversion to HIV activism came when his son died of the disease, and whose subsequent complicated indirect struggle with his anointed successor, Thabo Mbeki, ANC comrade and the world’s premier antiretrorevisionist, could make for a magnificent slightly fictionalized psychodrama.
So we get Muhammad Ali, the Kenyan longhaul truckdriver who has slept with exactly “one hundred thousand women” and who used AIDS as an instrument to find Islam again and live right, analogous (except for the religion) to what I am trying to do with my hiatal hernia and incipient diabetes. Tigist Haile Michael, the Ethiopian child heading a household, and her brother Yohannes, who struggle to stay alive and keep it light and be kids, and she is struggling so hard to not have to resort to sex with strange men and he says if he had a million dollars he’d spend it on TVs and sportscars but as soon as she leaves the room he says he’d make it so she wouldn’t have to work anymore. Mfanimpela Thlabatse in Swaziland, the man who outlived his wife and all his children and and died at age 34. Zackie Achmat in South Africa, the AIDS activist whose brave hunger strike almost helped achieve ARV coverage in this middle-income nation and world power, one of the few that should have the capacity to address the epidemic on its own, and would have if not for human unreason. Pontiano Kaleebu, the Ugandan epidemiologist who is closer than anyone (this is c. 2007, and of course I’m layperson taking the word of another layperson) to a vaccine—the human need to derive meaning from suffering rises here, and you think wouldn’t it mean more if the greatest discovery in medicine this century was made by an African researcher. Agnes Munyiva in Kenya, one of the sex workers whose body has figured out how to combat the disease, rendering her functionally immune. Mpho in South Africa, who lived so fast and died so young, dissipated like a whirlwind, and her mum before her and her auntie and granny after her, and now nobody is left to remember the wild beauty of her life, not really, only us readers, which I imagine would be cold comfort
And people in Zambia, Lesotho, Nigeria, Congo; people who got the disease sexually, by birth, from needles, in a fight; people whose concerns are as different as those of the subsistence farmer, the special forces commando, the Anglican priest, and the hipster artist, but whose lives, suddenly, become unified by the same central fact of sickness. How do you live honestly as a sick person while not deteriorating until you become only that? It’s inspiring that that’s still so important an issue even in the face of more immediate questions like how do you stay alive at all.
What you see, again and again, is the limitless convertibility of resources, and how that sounds like a good thing, but what it really means is that damage in one area is damage in all. You’re sick. Fine. So you get drugs. But you can’t afford them because of the greedy fucking pharmaceutical companies. And if generic alternatives become available? Then you can afford those either because you can’t work because you’re too sick. Or because you have twelve kids to take care of, yours and your dead sister’s and your dead cousin’s, and some of them are sick too. Or because you can’t get a job because your country’s economy is fucked because of greedy elites and lack of civil society, in itself a result of poverty, and because of World Bank and IMF forced-liberalization measures that make it impossible to hire more people in the public sector, so there are no nurses to treat you and half the nurses are dying anyway. Or you get the ARVs but it’s still too hard to continue because your family’s disowned you and your husband broke your legs and left you for dishonouring him. Which meant you couldn’t get to the clinic. Which means you stopped taking your ARVs.
And on and on. A wound in any area of the body or psyche soul or external life prospect drains all realms, horribly. There’s a lot of talk about “integrated support” for people living with HIV and AIDS, and this book is an amazing illustration of why: because HIV/AIDS is the original integrated problem. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | May 12, 2012 |
Stunning. ( )
  allison.sivak | Aug 30, 2011 |
Nolen's reporting is incredibly informative without diminishing the human story of any of the 28 subjects. It was evident that she wanted to share the truth of the story of AIDS in Africa, and she did it by sharing uniquely different stories tied together by one common thread. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to better understand the AIDS crisis in Africa. ( )
  aep00a | Dec 24, 2008 |
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