28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

4.6 5
by Stephanie Nolen
     
 

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For the past six years, Stephanie Nolen has traced AIDS across Africa, and 28 is the result: an unprecedented, uniquely human portrait of the continent in crisis. Through riveting, anecdotal stories, she brings to life men, women, and children involved in every AIDS arena, making them familiar. And she explores the effects of an epidemic that well exceeds the…  See more details below

Overview

For the past six years, Stephanie Nolen has traced AIDS across Africa, and 28 is the result: an unprecedented, uniquely human portrait of the continent in crisis. Through riveting, anecdotal stories, she brings to life men, women, and children involved in every AIDS arena, making them familiar. And she explores the effects of an epidemic that well exceeds the Black Plague in scope, and the reasons why we must care about what happens.

In every instance, Nolen has borne witness to the stories she relates, whether riding with truck driver Mohammed Ali on a journey across Kenya; following Tigist Haile Michael, a smart, shy fourteen-year-old Ethiopian orphan fending for herself and her baby brother on the slum streets of Addis Ababa; chronicling the efforts of Alice Kadzanja, an HIV-positive nurse in Malawi; or interviewing Nelson Mandelas family about coming to terms with his own sons death from AIDS. Nolens stories reveal how the disease works and spreads; how it is inextricably tied to conflict and famine and to the diverse cultures it has ravaged; how treatment works, and how people who cant get treatment fight to stay alive with courage and dignity against huge odds.

Imagine the entire population of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles combined infected with HIV, and its magnitude in Africa is clear. Writing with power and simplicity, Stephanie Nolen makes us listen, allows us to understand, and inspires us to care. Timely and transformative, 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa is essential reading for anyone concerned about the fate of humankind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Major acclaim for Stephanie Nolen’s bestseller 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa
(a bestseller on the Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star lists)

“Stephanie Nolen looks behind the facts and stats to talk to 28 people across the continent affected by the virus. Through them, she builds up a larger narrative: of mass social stigma and ignorance; corrupt governments; exploitative drug companies; and a dispassionate and largely disinterested West. A welcome dispatch from an epic disaster we ignore at our peril.”
—Metro (London)

“In 28, Nolen marshals the reporting and storytelling skills that have made her, after UN special envoy Stephen Lewis, this country’s most compelling and vigorous voice for action on the grim parasite worming its way across Africa. In clear, insightful prose and vivid, though never lurid, detail, she allows her characters—one for every million people—to tell tales of despair and remarkable courage, willful ignorance and improbable triumph.”
—The Gazette
(Montreal)

“Nolen is a gifted listener and storyteller . . . Her collection . . . pays loving tribute to the people of Africa . . . Although history and science are woven lightly in and around the anecdotes and photographic portraits of the 28, this is a book about human life and human nature.”
The Globe and Mail

“Nolen puts a very human face on HIV/AIDS in Africa. . . . Nolen sees beneath the surfaces of these individuals, estranged and all but destroyed by governmental ineptitude and denial, and evinces their loves and hopes and family ties, their humanness, with which all others can identify.”
Booklist

“Never sentimental, Nolen lets the people and their experiences speak for themselves. The result is both an informative and a powerful read, which will help Western readers connect personally with a crisis that too often seems remote. . . . A unique, valuable contribution to the literature on this important topic.”
Library Journal

“A kind of continental survey of the impact of the AIDS pandemic on Africa, in stories that are frequently both tragically sad and just as often hugely inspiring.”
Calgary Herald

“28 searing portraits of Africans affected by the deadly virus. . . . With a seasoned journalist’s finesse, Nolen effortlessly weaves technical information—health statistics, disease data, NGO reports—into these deeply intimate glimpses of people often overlooked in the flood of contemporary media. Nolen’s book packs a real emotional wallop.”
Publishers Weekly

“In 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa, Nolen takes the reader on an emotional journey through the continent as she tells the stories of 28 people fighting HIV/AIDS . . . The stories are powerful, heartfelt and deeply human.”
Kingston Whig-Standard

“She is an evocative and empathetic writer.”
The Nation

“[A] powerful, yet restrained, book. . . . Nolen’s book is . . . a journalist’s honest attempt to tell a powerful story using human interest, anecdotes and poignant quotes in 28 profiles.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Nolen puts a very human face on HIV/AIDS in Africa. . . . Nolen sees beneath the surfaces of these individuals, estranged and all but destroyed by governmental ineptitude and denial, and evinces their loves and hopes and family ties, their humanness, with which all others can identify.”
Booklist

“Nolen gives the epidemic a human face – more precisely, 28 human faces, one for each million Africans estimated to be infected with HIV. Ill healthcare workers and activists are portrayed along with ordinary Africans whose lives have been forever changed by AIDS. Nolen tells their stories simply and elegantly, blending their personal experiences with relevant background information about the epidemic. Never sentimental, she lets the people and their experiences speak for themselves. The result is both an informative and a powerful read, which will help Western readers connect personally with a crisis that too often seems remote.” –Library Journal

“28 searing portraits of Africans affected by the deadly virus. . . . With a seasoned journalist’s finesse, Nolen effortlessly weaves technical information – health statistics, disease data, NGO reports – into these deeply intimate glimpses of people often overlooked in the flood of contemporary media. Nolen’s book packs a real emotional wallop.”
Publishers Weekly

“Magnificent, inspiring, informative. Nolen opens the essential door to the brave, suffering, human reality of the African AIDS crisis.”
–John le Carré

“This is a formidable book of record . . . from the tiny virus, via 28 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 with a virus more dangerous than any W.M.D.”
–Bono

“This book is magnificent. It’s probably the best book ever written about AIDS, certainly the best I’ve ever read. I wept when I finished, not just because it’s beautifully written, not just because the last chapter tears the heart out, not just because it’s a work of such force and feeling and power, not just because it’s so intensely and astonishingly human, not just because it covers the entire landscape of the virus, but because its impact could shape public opinion as never before.”
–Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy HIV/AIDS in Africa

“A book of quiet yet overwhelming power, delivering a message of devastating moral authority. Moving, heartrending and uplifting, Stephanie Nolen’s book bears impeccable witness to the ‘unique and savage’ phenomenon of AIDS in Africa.”
–William Boyd, author of Restless and Brazzaville Beach

“If a war had killed 20 million soldiers, and left 28 million more dying of wounds, we’d call it the worst such tragedy since World War II. This is the scale of AIDS in Africa. Stephanie Nolen brings this story to life in a moving, deeply human way. Through these portraits – shrewdly chosen, varied, and sometimes startlingly unexpected–she artfully puts a series of human faces on the greatest health crisis of our time.”
–Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost and Bury the Chains

“28 can soon be 48, 98 and more. And not just in Africa. And it does not have to be. Nolen shows that the struggle of one to live with dignity must be the struggle of all. Read. Weep. Rage. And above all else – like those people described in this brilliant book–find the courage to do.”
–Dr. James Orbinski, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières

“AIDS in Africa is an enigma. The more it spreads, the less we see it. It is deadly yet deniable. It hides in full view of everyone. What this moving book does is to catch it by the tail and show us its face – it is our own.”
–Christopher Hope, author of My Mother’s Lovers

“Essential reading in the Age of AIDS, it is never earnest, and, whilst often painful, full of humane and painstakingly researched detail.”
–Emma Thompson

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802718761
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
05/26/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
File size:
6 MB

Read an Excerpt

Why28

I looked at AIDS in Africa for a long time before I understood what I was seeing. That moment came on the shady porch of a small mud-brick house in a village called Nkhotakota in Malawi, early in 2002. The house belonged to Lillian Chandawili. She was thirty-five years old, and I met her through the local AIDS organization. We sat in the softening heat of the late afternoon and she told me how she was raising her five children on her own–her husband was gone. She confided that she was plagued by diarrhea and a racking cough; some days she barely had the strength to lift a hoe, but her little plot of land was the only source of food for her family.

While we talked, Lillian’s children ventured up to sit near us, and neighbours and relatives stopped by, polite and eager to greet a visitor. There were a great many children. Lillian explained that in addition to her five she was raising two of her late sister’s children and two orphaned cousins. She laid one gentle hand on their heads as they crept in close–“This one has it,” she said. “And this one, I think he’s infected.” When the neighbours moved on, she gestured with a lift of her chin at one or another–“She is infected. He is positive. Her husband is dying. He lost his wife.”

And as I listened, I suddenly understood that it wasn’t just Lillian and the dozen people in her support group in Nkhotakota who had AIDS. On paper, it was one in six adults in Malawi. But in this village, it was hundreds of people. If they weren’t sick themselves, they were caring for the sick. They were sheltering their sisters’ orphans, their dead brother’s young wife and baby. One way or another, everyone had the disease. And it meant that they earned less, that they grew less food, that fewer children went to school, that no one had any savings. Lillian talked of all the people who had “passed,” and I had a sense of a community quietly evaporating around me.

A few days later, in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, I set out early one morning for the main hospital, where the lone doctor in charge had agreed to speak to me about the country’s HIV epidemic. When I got to the hospital, however, no one was quite sure where he was, and people suggested I try one ward or another, check this corridor or that office. I wandered the halls in a state of growing horror. I had by that point seen many basic and overcrowded African hospitals, but never anything like this. There were people everywhere: three to a bed, lying head to foot to head; under the beds, lying on grass mats in the stairwells and in the verandas off the wards. They were bone thin and covered in lesions and abscesses. As I stepped gingerly among them, they shifted their heads slightly to look up at me through eyes grown huge in sunken faces. I could not find the doctor; I did find a nurse–perhaps the only nurse–who was stout and slovenly and clearly drunk, her hairpiece of copper curls askew. Looking around the ward, I couldn’t blame her: it was barely 8 a.m., but I felt in desperate need of a stiff drink myself.

I had realized, long before that day, that AIDS was a unique and savage phenomenon in Africa. Back in 1998, in a rural hospital in Tanzania, the chief medical officer had led me on a tour of the wards. In one, we passed rows of antique but tidy beds lined up under billowy mosquito nets. Then we came to three men off by themselves, lying in a row on a thin mat on the floor. Their legs were like twigs, and their breathing was audible from the other side of the room. I was puzzled at first, and stopped in front of them. Then realized what this must be.

“Do they have AIDS?” I asked.

The doctor and his assistants whipped around. A nurse seized my arm and began to pull me out of the ward.

Shh, shh, shh,” she scolded. “You can’t just say that word.”

The sight of those men stayed with me. Over the next few years, I kept going back to Africa, drawn to what I began to believe was the biggest story in the world. Not the wars or the refugee crises that occasionally–very occasionally–made the evening news back home, but the slow, almost incalculable devastation that HIV/AIDS was wreaking in country after country I visited.

I know something about what makes news. In the fifteen years I have worked as a journalist, I have reported on some of the biggest stories in the world. I watched Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization move into the West Bank after making peace with Israel in the early 1990s. I saw tentative women venture out of their homes for the first time in five years as the Taliban lost their hold on Afghanistan. I watched Saddam Hussein’s army flee Baghdad in the face of an onslaught of U.S. Marines. There is an undeniable thrill that comes with being in the centre of the big story.

But nothing I was sent to cover anywhere in the world compared to what I saw AIDS doing in sub-Saharan Africa. And yet this story never made the news at all.

In 2003, I persuaded my editors at The Globe and Mail that we were missing something important. They did not yet share my conviction about the urgency of the story, but they were willing to let me try to tell it. I moved to Johannesburg and began what would turn out to be years of travel through the heart of the epidemic: the Swazi villages, the slums outside Durban, the highlands of Lesotho, the urban hospitals of Botswana. I found hundreds and hundreds of communities like Nkhotakota on the verge of disappearing. I knew people in North America who had been living with HIV for years, taking antiretroviral medication that does not cure AIDS but will keep a person with HIV healthy for decades. But no one in Africa had the drugs. No one was even talking about getting them the drugs. AIDS was a fully preventable illness at home. But in Africa, it was a plague, and people like Lillian Chandawili could do little but sit and watch its inexorable progression. And I began to wonder how this could be happening–how we could be letting this happen–almost entirely unremarked.

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Meet the Author

Stephanie Nolen is the award-winning Africa bureau chief for Torontos Globe and Mail, and one of only three journalists in the world wholly dedicated to the AIDS story. She has reported from more than forty countries around the world, and won Canadas National Newspaper Award for International Reporting two years in a row. Nolen was the recipient of the 2003 and 2004 Amnesty International Award for Human Rights Reporting, for reports from war zones in Uganda and Sudan, and also won the Markwell Award of the International Society of Political Psychology for her "creative brilliance, humanitarian compassion, personal courage, and relentless pursuit of truth." She is the author of Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race and Shakespeares Face. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Stephanie Nolen is the award-winning Africa bureau chief for Torontos Globe and Mail, and one of only three journalists in the world wholly dedicated to the AIDS story. She has reported from more than forty countries around the world, and won Canadas National Newspaper Award for International Reporting two years in a row. Nolen was the recipient of the 2003 and 2004 Amnesty International Award for Human Rights Reporting, for reports from war zones in Uganda and Sudan, and also won the Markwell Award of the International Society of Political Psychology for her "creative brilliance, humanitarian compassion, personal courage, and relentless pursuit of truth." She is the author of Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race and Shakespeares Face. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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28 Stories of Aids in Africa (Canadian) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"28 - stories of AIDS in Aprica" is a collection of the very personal stories of heroic AIDS sufferers in Africa, most of whom could not avail themselves of the medications that sat on a clinic shelf just down the road, because the cost was too high. There have been serious, painful issues in my life - as in every life - and reading this book motivates me to recycle my own grief into positive action for others. Thank you, author Stephanie Nolan! (Great book for high school classrooms, universities, support groups)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hulabluajfked28
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
VirginiaVA More than 1 year ago
Award-winning journalist, Stephanie Nolen, has written this amazing work of the depth, despair and devastation of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Most North-Americans have no idea of the impact of this disease that affects just about everyone (rich, poor, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, colleagues, farmers, factory workers, politicians, pastors... and CHILDREN.) In this incredibly well-researched book, Ms. Nolen demolishes typical prejudices with her moving portrayals of victims from a wide cross-section of African society. These are real stories of real people facing the real challenges of living with HIV/AIDS. Courage - we can learn from their struggles and do more to make sure they don't go quietly into the dark night of our collective global ignorance. 28 - TWENTY EIGHT MILLION - dead already. Thank you to Stephanie Nolen for writing this outstanding book. This is a must read for everyone (!!) but especially those who love Africa, and well, human beings from everywhere!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book gives enormous insight into the lives of those struggling with AIDS in Africa. Nolen writes with descriptions that allow you to look into the people about whom she writes, which is rare in authors. It is at once thought-provoking, inspiring and deeply sad. Wonderful read!