A debut memoir reflects on a life of serving others, from fighting AIDS in Africa to securing health funding in the United States.
Born to a family of Philadelphia sandwich shop owners in the early 1960s, Zeitz was heavily affected at a young age when he learned about the Holocaust. From that point on, he vowed to make sure he would not sit idly by during any future genocide. Relying on a defiant spirit to achieve his goals, the author pursued a medical degree, eventually becoming an osteopathic physician. In college, he met Mindi Cohen, and after some ups and downs, they were married in the early ’90s. After his wedding, Zeitz took a position in Nigeria to do fieldwork for a short time and then became a field epidemiologist in the American Southwest, where he and Mindi had their first child. After that, he worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development health program across the world, particularly in Africa. He then moved his wife and three kids to Zambia to become a government health adviser, covering many bases—AIDS, nutrition, and population. There, he saw up close the devastating impact of AIDS in Africa, adopted an orphaned child, and attempted to get more funds from the United States—sometimes to the chagrin of his bosses. After one too many steps over the line, the author moved back to America, where he became a successful activist, working with (and sometimes against) the government to raise money for AIDS outreach. But the unearthing of a dark family secret threatened to unravel all of his accomplishments. In his engrossing book, Zeitz ably finds a way to balance the telling of his personal and professional challenges and achievements and is particularly effective in showing how they affect one another. It is hard to doubt his commitment to his titular cause as he writes with a furious passion that seems to enjoin readers in a global struggle. At one point in Zambia, he stopped to see what merchants were hawking: “They were selling coffins—adult-sized, and ones small enough for children and babies. The injustice I saw in front of me burned like a raging fire through my soul.” But the author also unflinchingly describes his own mistakes and traumas, making for a well-rounded character study.
A surprisingly multifaceted work that delves deep into the personal and the political.