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Our Kind of People: A Continent's Challenge, A Country's Hope Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 10, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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 Daily Beast)

“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 Los Angeles Times Book Review)

“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.” (The Boston Globe)

“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.” (Bono)

“In this unassuming but important book, Uzodinma Iweala gives the AIDS pandemic not just a human face but a human voice. . . . Remarkable.” (The Times Literary Supplement)

From the Back Cover

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061284904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061284908
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,978,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Not giving this short look at AIDS in Africa (and specifically, the experience in Nigeria, the author's home country) more than three stars feels a bit churlish. But however moving the individual stories it contains may be, the book itself is far from flawless.

My principal problem with the narrative surfaced early on, when Iweala makes the case that the West has a difficulty in understanding Africa's AIDS crisis because we are blinkered by ages-old prejudices. Certainly, those prejudices exist, especially among those who have never spent any time in sub-Saharan Africa. But Iweala then proceeds to undermine his own case by showing that many of these preconceptions may have some basis in reality. For instance, he discusses the nature of sexual relationships as being more likely to be concurrent than consecutive (he talks to a man who defines fidelity to a girlfriend as cutting the number of his other girlfriends from eight down to four, and then only to one other woman, for instance.) Forget labels and judgments: as Iweala and the physicians he talks to for this book comment, that kind of approach is more likely to result in the kind of dramatic spread of AIDS that the world has witnessed in Africa. He doesn't want traditional African beliefs criticized -- and yet some of those, too, have negatively affected the lives of Nigerians with AIDS, as they are excluded from the community and shunned our of a kind of fear that AIDS is spread via some kind of miasma.

Where does the line lie between the West patronizing Africans by offering assistance and offending them by not doing enough? Iweala refers to African HIV/AIDS activists and their belief that Westerners don't see African AIDS patients "as similar to ourselves and thus deserving of proper medical care.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Iweala is an excellent social critic, and has a way of neatly deconstructing past and present attempts to fight AIDS. While the scope and depth of this book is much smaller, Iweala's ability to point out the flaws in common (particularly foreign) attempts to eradicate AIDS reminded me very much of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Vintage). What he is a bit short on, however - and this might be owing, again, to the scope of the book - is concrete solutions.

I appreciated how current the book was: I remember seeing one particular ad campaign that he criticizes just a year or two ago. I also liked how he succinctly explained how rapidly AIDS has become an "African problem" - because I'm too young to hardly remember it being considered as anything else.

I think my favorite passage in the book, which summed up so much of what's hard about relief efforts of all kinds, discussed how the most help that's needed isn't swooping in and rescuing a dying child in the nick of time - it's helping someone live their life. Their everyday, mundane life - the one we take so much for granted:

"People from Nigeria and abroad don't want to hear that their donations and aid work are going to support another person's ability to do the things we all have to do, but this should be our goal in the struggle with HIV/AIDS: to mitigate its impact so that lives become livable again." (p. 50)

I will admit to being disappointed by Iweala's treatment of sex.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I lost my best friend to AIDS in 1989, and I still miss him terribly. For years I was terrified of making friends with gay men for fear of losing them. I had lost three friends, and until the anti-retro viral treatments were available, I was worried all the time that other friends would be taken from me. After the cocktail that worked was readily available, my fears dissipated and now I have two friends with HIV/Aids who happily live their lives fully, without the fear (on their part or mine) that they will die a premature death. I've seen the fear it inspires, first hand, how some family members react and how miserable self-righteous prigs see this disease as a punishment from God. But, that was a generation ago. To read a book written today, that details all the crap people had to go thru who had HIV/Aids thirty years ago, as if it were breaking news, is mind numbing. I have known about the devastation HIV/Aids has caused to millions of people in different countries in Africa for almost as long as I knew about it here.
Iweala wrote this book as if it's a relatively new phenomena that needs to be addressed. C'mon. Wake up. This is not new or news. What is important is how millions of people in Africa are denied treatments because of either cost or inaccessibility to locations that administer treatments (the latter situation wasn't even addressed in this book).
There are snippets in this book that are compelling, but mostly it is dated material, poorly and very defensively written. Iweala constantly bemoans how we clump all the people and all the countries in Africa together and make grotesque generalizations. Make that point and move on.
I did, however, love the title of the book. Essentially, it asks, who gets HIV/Aids. And the answer is: People like us. Viewing the crisis that way keeps us from treating those people who are positive as "the other".
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