19 July 2008

[talk: A Good Read]

I've always loved a good book. I remember going to the library with my family on different occasions and being so overwhelmed by the sheer number to choose from. I rarely picked one myself - even as a school child. I would ask the librarian, or a friend, or the teacher - "Which one should I read?" Then, I would find an author that I fell in love with, and would read every book they wrote. After that - I was back to square one ... "Um - can anyone recommend a good book?"

I joined a Book Club before I had Josiah ... but I didn't read as much as the fantastic women in the group - and I found myself cramming before our group meetings. Eventually, I left the group - not because of any other reason but that rather then motivating me, it felt stressful. But my love for a great read hasn't changed - and the summer seems the best time to start a new one.

Are you looking for something to inspire you? Challenge you? Man oh man, have I got the book for you. It's not a novel - and I love novels ... drifting away into some other reality. As wonderful as that is, this is not that book. No, no, no. This is a collection of interviews ... interviews with African people dying of AIDS.

It's called "28 Stories of AIDS in Africa", each story meant to represent 1 million stories ... that's right - there are an estimated 28 million people who are dying from this unfathomable disease. Each chapter is a new interview - brilliantly written by Globe and Mail journalist, Stephanie Nolan - and shows you a simple portrait of the person who's story you're about to read. Let me share a few quotes to get you thinking ...

"You see lines of people with bundles of their possessions on their heads who need food or tents or donations - you don't think, 'that is a doctor, that is a teacher, that's a commune administrator' ".

"The problem with HIV is that its transmission, in blood and sexual fluids and breast milk, preys on our most intimate moments."

"In 1986, Rwanda became the first country in the world to do a national survey of HIV prevalence, covering everyone from babies to the elderly. The results exceeded even the worst nightmares of the government: a staggering 17.8% of people in cities were already infected ... Anything above 1% is considered a 'generalized epidemic'."

"When I talk to people at home about the pandemic, I get the sense that they feel a dying African is somehow different from a dying Canadian, American or German - that Africans have lower expectations or place less value on their lives. That to be an orphaned 15 year old thrust into caring for four bewildered siblings, or a teacher thrown out of her house after she tells her husband she is infected - that somehow this would be less terrifying or strange for a person in Zambia or Mozambique than it would be for someone in the United States or Britain."

"How, he wanted to know, can your government, your country - you - just let us die?"

I am only a third the way through - and my eyes are so opened to something that has seemed so unreal, so "in another world'. It's a cocktail of factual information - using statistics and biological information - and heartfelt interviews. And it also provides information on dozens of ways that a person can help.

So, if you're so inclined, read a GOOD book this summer. It just might make you more generous, more grateful - but even if it doesn't - it will make you know the truth.

I bought mine at Costco for $12.99.

I should also add, that I did not find this book on my own. It was recommended by E. If you're reading this - thanks, girl.

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