Our Kind of People: A Continent's Challenge, a Country's Hope

Overview

In 2005 Uzodinma Iweala stunned readers and critics alike with Beasts of No Nation, his debut novel about child soldiers in West Africa. Now his return to Africa has produced Our Kind of People, a non-fiction account of the AIDS crisis every bit as startling and original. HIV/AIDS has been reported as one of the most destructive diseases in recent memory—tearing apart communities and ostracizing the afflicted. But the emphasis placed on death, destruction, and despair hardly captures the many and varied effects ...

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Our Kind of People: A Continent's Challenge, a Country's Hope

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Overview

In 2005 Uzodinma Iweala stunned readers and critics alike with Beasts of No Nation, his debut novel about child soldiers in West Africa. Now his return to Africa has produced Our Kind of People, a non-fiction account of the AIDS crisis every bit as startling and original. HIV/AIDS has been reported as one of the most destructive diseases in recent memory—tearing apart communities and ostracizing the afflicted. But the emphasis placed on death, destruction, and despair hardly captures the many and varied effects of the epidemic, or the stories of the extraordinary people who live and die under its watch.

Our Kind of People opens our minds to these stories, introducing a new set of voices and altering the way we speak and think about disease. Iweala embarks on a remarkable journey through his native Nigeria, meeting individuals and communities that are struggling daily to understand both the impact and meaning of HIV/AIDS. He speaks with people from all walks of life—the ill and the healthy, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, sex workers, shopkeepers, students, parents, and children. Their testimonies are by turns uplifting, alarming, humorous, and surprising, and always unflinchingly candid. Integrating his own experiences with these voices, Iweala creates at once a deeply personal exploration of life, love, and connection in the face of disease, and an incisive critique of our existing ideas of health and happiness.

Beautifully written and heartbreakingly honest, Our Kind of People goes behind the headlines of an unprecedented epidemic to show the real lives it affects, illuminating the scope of the crisis and a continent's valiant struggle.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nigerian native Iweala tackles Africa's AIDS crisis, examining its history and social stigma and talking to the activists, scholars, and doctors working to stop its spread. In discussing Western attitudes to the topic, he unpacks dehumanizing assumptions that only promiscuity, backwardness, or polygamy could explain such high rates of infection. He also speaks to people like Dr. Chukwumuanya Igboekwu, who works in an underfunded Nigerian clinic where he often pays for supplies out of his own pocket. The doctor notes that ashamed families often ask him to leave "HIV/AIDS" off death certificates. Idris, a community leader, frankly describes an infected woman's banishment from his village, explaining, "Everybody is afraid." Other interviews display a spectrum of HIV-positive people, like twenty-eight-year-old Angie, who lost her fiancé and her job after contracting the disease, and activist Samaila Garba, a former police officer. The book also explores this epidemic's consequences, which include sub-Saharan Africa's low life expectancy �just forty-five years�, dwindling workforce, and innumerable orphaned children. This is an accessible book for those seeking to learn more about the crisis, and Iweala's passion and urgency is vibrant on the page. Agents: Jeff Posternak & Tracy Bohan, The Wylie Agency. (July)
The Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A stunning inquiry into the AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. . . . Iweala evokes the human cost of AIDS, and this is where Our Kind of People excels. . . . . Iweala’s focus on narrative, on sharing voices and experiences, becomes an act of redemption.”
The Times Literary Supplement
“In this unassuming but important book, Uzodinma Iweala gives the AIDS pandemic not just a human face but a human voice. . . . Remarkable.”
The Daily Beast
“At last, an account of the AIDS crisis from the point of view of the people most affected by it—men, women and children of Africa, who are not simply victims but are heroes and scientists as well.”
The Boston Globe
“Iweala’s arguments are well reasoned. By making generous use of the voices of many Africans, Iweala’s writing possesses an immediacy that makes his message powerful and compelling.”
Bono
“Iweala tells the stories of those whose lives - and deaths - make up the numbers in a measured, accessible tone. The end of the story of HIV/AIDS is not yet written, but in Our Kind of People we see the beginnings of normalcy.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061284908
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/10/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Uzodinma Iweala

Uzodinma Iweala is the author of Beasts of No Nation, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2007 he was selected as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he lives in New York City and Abuja, Nigeria.

Biography

Uzodinma Iweala was born in 1982. He graduated from Harvard University, where he was a Mellon Mays Scholar and received a number of prizes for his writing, including the Eager Prize, the Horman Prize, the Le Baron Briggs Prize, and the Hoopes Prize, awarded for outstanding undergraduate thesis. He lives in Washington, D.C., and Lagos, Nigeria.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Iweala:

"I'm really very silly, and also probably very easily amused -- though I may not seem that way when you meet me."

"I design clothes as a hobby. I started designing Nigerian-inspired formalwear because of a date I took to my junior prom in high school, who proceeded to tell me that she was going to hang out with an ex-boyfriend at a club after the dance instead of with me. She left me with all of her bags and didn't even call to say thank you when I dropped them off at her house. I spent $120 renting a tux for the night -- and after that I said, never again will I rent a tux. Now I design my own formal wear and other stuff. I also design dresses as well. I have them made in Nigeria."

"I like to fall asleep on the floor -- as long as it's carpeted. This is probably because I tend to read and write on the floor. A comfortable bed is also a wonderful thing, but wow, can a nap on the floor do wonders for your back, your day, your creativity!"

"I have two great parents and three incredible siblings -- an older sister who's in med school, and two younger brothers in college -- they put out a rap album when they were 14 and 11. Demolition was the name of the group, and the album was called TNT."

"I play jazz piano and the saxophone. I really love photography and like to take pictures. Good ways to unwind: listening to really good music of any genre in the dark -- either alone or in good company."

"I like to take Milo -- my family's the-year-old basenji and the greatest dog alive -- for walks along the C&O Canal and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., which is really beautiful at any time of the year. I occasionally go for runs -- and by occasionally, I mean almost never. "

"I would like at some point in time to be a doctor involved in health in the developing world."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Uzodinma Chukuka Iweala
    2. Hometown:
      Potomac, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 5, 1982
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      A.B., Harvard University, Magna Cum Laude in English and American Literature and Language, 2004

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