The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive

The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive

by Marvelyn Brown, Courtney Martin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061562396
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/19/2008
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 675,489
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

Marvelyn Brown is a native Tennessean who works with numerous HIV/AIDS outreach groups. She has extensive radio and television experience, including appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, MTV, BET, and The Tavis Smiley Show. She's also appeared in Newsweek, Ebony, and Real Health magazines. Her public-service announcement for Think MTV won an Emmy Award. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Courtney E. Martin is a writer, teacher, and speaker based in Brooklyn. She is the author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, The American Prospect, and the Christian Science Monitor, among other national publications, and she is a blogger for

Read an Excerpt

The Naked Truth
Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive

By Marvelyn Brown Courtney Martin
Copyright © 2008

Marvelyn Brown
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-156239-6

Chapter One As a child, I adored my mother, but I was definitely a daddy's girl. I used to love to just sit and watch my father play his favorite game of all time: Pac-Man. As the little yellow man whisked across the screen, my daddy would go from happy to overexcited to sad to angry-all in a matter of seconds. I would patiently wait for Inky, Pinky, Blinky, or Clyde to eat him up. Then he would yell and curse at the screen, and I would laugh until my stomach hurt.

Unlike so many other black fathers, who disappeared as fast as Pac-Man, my dad, Marvin, was the present parent in those early days. He would take my sister, Mone't, and me to kids' movies, even the ones he hated watching, and nap until the credits rolled, at which point he would clap enthusiastically as if he had been awake for the whole thing.

I loved going to the grocery store with my dad because he would always buy me yummy treats, even if it was right before dinner. We would sneak and eat candy, disposing of all the wrappers before we got home so my mom, Marilyn, wouldn't find out. My father and I would walk into the house with a secret, shared smirk on our faces. Those smirks disappeared when I went to the dentist and our cover was blown. I had eight cavities. That night my father slept on the couch and I was on grocery-store suspension.

Back then I didn't sense the tension between my parents, though I could tell that my mom-an engineer and a labor organizer-was far more on top of things than my dad, who fixed copy machines for Xerox. Neither of my parents came from money. This was the South, after all. My parents' was really the first generation of southern blacks that had a chance at a decent life. My mom wanted us to be a "successful" family, which in her mind meant all work and no play.

My mom was the two S's, strict and serious. She was so driven that I don't remember her ever letting her hair down. She was always nagging my dad about this or that, scolding Mone't, or me (more often me) for not acting the way she wanted us to, or ordering us around. It seemed like we could never do right, never be enough for her.

From the time I could walk and talk, I was involved in a million activities-dance, modeling, swimming, track. If my mom saw a sign-up list, you'd better believe my name was first on it. She didn't care what it was. She just wanted me busy, busy, busy. It wasn't just that she thought it would keep us out of trouble. She also thought it would help us achieve later on in life. And that's pretty much all my mom cared about: success.

My dad and I were sitting on the couch hanging out one afternoon when my mom came home from work and brought a dark cloud of unhappiness with her. I was only five, but I was already a master at picking up on my mom's emotions. I can still remember the visceral feeling I had when she was fed up.

"Marvelyn, your dad and I need to talk. Get in the other room."

I scurried away, hearing that she meant business, and she closed the door behind me. I remember just looking at that closed door, wishing I could understand how to make the problems between my mom and dad all better. I got down on my knees and put my ear to the door, hoping to hear, then wishing I hadn't. My mom was yelling at my dad, calling him "no good," ordering him to leave. I began to shake, then I broke down crying. I couldn't believe this was happening. Why weren't any of us ever good enough for my mom? Why did my dad's fun-loving nature make her so mad? Why did she feel so worried about us "making it" all the time?

I know now that my mom was dealing with a whole lot of drama I didn't have the first clue about. For starters, my dad was addicted to drugs. I didn't know this at the time. Hell, I didn't know it until a couple of years ago when I finally asked. Those kinds of things often get covered up in families-especially in southern families. We don't like to air our dirty laundry.

As it turned out, there was a lot of it. Not only was my dad addicted to gambling, drugs, and alcohol, but he had other kids. Years later I would ask my mom, "Why did you marry Dad if he had other kids?"

She shot back, sounding characteristically stern, "You think I would have married him if I'd known about those kids? Please, Marvelyn, I didn't have a clue." Of course, I realized-that would have ruined her image of the perfect "successful" family.

No matter how much my mom tried to keep it together, the image was shattered anyway. My parents got a divorce, and my mom gained full custody of my younger sister and me, along with the house and cars. Our family went from the ideal, middle-class picture to a single-parent household where the mom is trying to hold it down and the dad just makes cameo appearances. From then on I heard from my dad a few times a year at most, usually around the holidays and my birthday. One day when arriving home from school I realized that the answering machine was blinking with a message. I ran over to press play and heard my dad wishing me a happy birthday. I was so excited to hear from him and get the birthday wishes that I hardly noted that he was five days late.

Once my dad left, my mom's focus on Mone't and me got even sharper. Even though she was working all the time, she managed to be highly involved at our schools. She was one of the only nonwhite mothers on the PTA, and she made sure to handpick our teachers every year. My classmates thought my mom was so cool because a lot of their mothers were not as active, but I felt like it was an invasion of my privacy and just added to the pressure I felt.

We were her works-in-progress. I hated how much she pushed me, and even more, I hated that she had sent my daddy away. I didn't understand why she made him leave and was sure that his continued absence was mostly her fault. Through a child's eyes, I saw only a loss of fun, play, love. The drugs were invisible.

Money troubles were concealed from me too. In fact, my mom was struggling. With the loss of my dad's income, she was forced to work outrageous twelve-hour night shifts to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. It seemed like she was either at work, asleep, or ordering us around; she often joked that she'd just had kids so they could do the work around the house. Sometimes I wasn't sure she was joking.


Excerpted from The Naked Truth by Marvelyn Brown Courtney Martin
Copyright © 2008 by Marvelyn Brown. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges

“Marvelyn Brown takes a bold approach to speak to our youth with enough honesty and frankness, everybody should be listening! She is an inspiration to men and women everywhere!”

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Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and was immediately drawn to it. It is a quick read 'can be finished in a day' but it holds a powerful story. We can't stop today's youth from being sexually active. Hopefully, if they read this book and see that ANYONE can get HIV/AIDS, they will either think twice before having sex or they will insist on using protection. If you are sexually active, please go get an HIV test. I finally went and got one in March '08 and thank goodness it is negative. Now I know. Make sure you know your results as well.
booklovinmathteacher More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be an eye opener in that it helped me to realize that we ASSUME our children fully understand the human body and the consequences of sexually transmitted diseases. We are failing our children by NOT talking about HIV. We cannot depend on abstinence only programs to save our children. They have to be given ALL of the information.
EmpressLay More than 1 year ago
This book proves one thing: ignorance is still winning the war against our psychological intelligence. Nobody doubts that sex is happening down every avenue of culture, age, and location but nothing more than drilled out, ineffective lectures from health classes and the occasional parent chat is being said to warn youths against the real life and death risk that's taken with sexual intercourse. I salute the author for having the strength to be frank about this issue. Her story, unfortunately, is not a unique one for too many lost and unfulfilled young girls find themselves searching for love in the wrong places and end up with a disease that fills their emptiness instead. I wish women would start raising their standards and men would also begin to step up to the plate and act more responsibly...then maybe, we might be able to end this disease's progression. I enjoyed reading this first-hand account on contracting HIV and AIDS as a teenage girl. It inspires me to become an activist in what I believe in, as well. The author proves that through your pain and sorrow you can turn your situation around and in turn, uplift and alter the course of other lives for the better. Of course, she doesn't express this message as formal and sappy in the book; she successfully delivers humor, realism, and her naked truth to the absolute fullest. Also an easy, straight to the point read; only took the course of a few days to finish.
Nupe172 More than 1 year ago
I am a parent with 2 children. This book scares the hell out of me when I think about what my children are facing out there. I was sexually active and in college when the AIDS epedimic firt blew up in the mid to late 80's. After years of wondering, I finally got tested in 1998 and it was negative. Since then, I have been married and faithful to my loving wife. However, I see so many young people playing with fire in their relationships. Unbelievably, people are still having unprotected sex with differet partners on a regular basis! And some silly women believe that if they only sleep with one guy at a time that they are somehow lowering their chances of getting AIDS! Parents, teachers, pastors, coaches, uncles, aunts and anyone else with access to influential young adults should make this book required reading. Buy it and send it to them as a gift. It may litterally save their life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will give this book to my daughter one day. Should be required reading for all young girls and boys who are dating as well as adults. Perfect cautionary tale
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