A compilation of 58 short essays and one poem from a broad spectrum of African-Americans giving their opinions, reactions and counsel on the subject of HIV and AIDS.
Robertson prefaces this uneven collection with a statistics-laden introduction that reveals the extent of the problem in this country: e.g., AIDS deaths are 10 times higher among African-Americans than among Caucasians; about two-thirds of the reported cases of AIDS in women and children are African-American. Some of the contributors, like Robertson, whose older brother has AIDS, write of the impact of having a family member with the illness. Others, like Robertson’s brother, write of their personal experience with it. Then there is the perspective of political and social leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who write more impersonally of what needs to be done to deal with the problem. Robertson includes AIDS activists, lawyers and clergymen professors, and he has sought out writers, editors and performers, including a TV talk show host, a porn star, a soul singer and a comedian. Gay and straight men, married and single women, the young and the not-so-young—all have their say. The writing consequently varies from formal and didactic to uninhibited street talk. Among the issues addressed are the perils of dating and marriage; homophobia and denial about homosexuality, especially in religious communities; safe and risky sex; the emotional toll of having the disease or loving someone who has it. A surprising number of the men speak of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he had been infected as the event that abruptly changed their disregard of HIV and AIDS as the problem of gay white men. Robertson has included some appendices intended to be useful: a glossary of terms that may be encountered in discussions with a physician, health worker or social worker; phone numbers of hotlines and the location of testing facilities throughout the country.
A collection of disparate, often repetitive pieces that, taken as whole, give a disturbing portrait of a serious problem.