Reading Shelf: Five Books on HIV

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

November 17 2011 1:00 AM ET

Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial, and the AIDS Epidemic in the South
Andrew J. Skerritt's Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial, and the AIDS Epidemic in the South takes a hard look at the AIDS crisis in the region, filtered through a small town in South Carolina. Skerritt's essential arguments are that the United States has failed to adequately address the threat of HIV in communities of color and that taboos about race, sex, and love'combined with Southern conservatism, conflicting moral and social conventions, and a legacy of racism'continue to create an unacceptable death toll. The book, though, isn't just wonky social science, as Ashamed is really about people (Tracy, Carolyn, Nita) whose lives are affected by HIV in a very tangible way, as well as the town itself, where a still-segregated cemetery is filled with young black men and women who've died of AIDS. (Lawrence Hill Books, $24.95)

Delicate Courage: An Exquisite Journey of Love, Death, and Eternal Communication
After the one-two gut punch that hit San Francisco in 1978'the murder of city officials Harvey Milk and George Moscone and the Jonestown massacre'author Jim Geary joined the Shanti Project, which he later helped develop into an internationally acclaimed model of AIDS services. In Delicate Courage: An Exquisite Journey of Love, Death, and Eternal Communication, Geary documents those early days in San Francisco, ground zero of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, as well as falling in love and surviving the enduring crisis over the ensuing decades. Geary now lives in Florida with his partner. (iUniverse, $32.95)

Ten Days With Minor
Tackling a triptych of issues'immigration, AIDS, and love'Nsedu Onyile's first novel, Ten Days With Minor, relies on the author's experience as a Nigerian immigrant with AIDS. 'This book is a clash of worlds,' says Onyile. 'African and American, health and disease, life and death'shown through immigration, society, friendship and survival tactics.' The central story in Ten Days is the meeting of two strangers: Minor, a dying AIDS patient still struggling to adjust to Western society, and Usukuma, a free spirit whose West African traditions help Minor cope. The friendship between the two helps manage the disease and the decline it causes. (AuthorHouse, $8.69),

Songs for the New Depression
Drawing on his years of work with AIDS Project Los Angeles and his experience of losing a partner to the disease, Kergan Edwards-Stout has crafted a work of fiction reminiscent of some classic tales in Songs for the New Depression. It follows middle-aged Gabe, a man who must finally tackle his demons with a little help from his mother's new wife. Even better, Edwards-Stout's debut boasts the kind of dark humor that made Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors, Dry) a household name, as evidenced by the fact that the new stepmom is a country music'loving priest. (Circumspect Press, $15.99)

The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS
Of all the books on HIV and AIDS today, few look at the origin of the virus, but Edward Hooper, a former United Nations official and BBC correspondent, searches for the source in The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS. The reporter put 10 years of research into an amazingly comprehensive history of the disease that, being a hefty tome'1,000 pages with references and illustrations'is for serious readers only. The most notable aspects: Hooper's controversial thesis that HIV made the jump from simians to humans via the administration of oral polio vaccine in Africa in the 1950s and his argument that politics should take a backseat to a cure. (Little, Brown, $9.99 Kindle Edition)

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