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

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,534,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Uzodinma Iweala is the acclaimed author of Beasts of No Nation, which received the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Public Library Young Lions 2006 Fiction Award, and the 2006 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. In 2007, Iweala was selected as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he lives in New York City and Lagos, Nigeria.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By H. Gerety VINE VOICE on May 16, 2012
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin Wolfson VINE VOICE on June 10, 2012
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In "Our Kind of People," Uzodinma Iweala takes a hard look at current attitudes and approaches towards the African AIDS epidemic, and he identifies some disturbing truths as well as some promising approaches. It's an important book.

According to Iweala, rather than tossing drugs and condoms at the problem or swooping in at the last minute to rescue orphaned children, we should be focusing on treating the epidemic as part of larger societal problems, especially poverty and abandonment. He argues, quite persuasively, that much of the West's approach to African AIDS is tainted by an essentially racist (my word, not his) approach that regards Africans, and especially Africans living with HIV/AIDS, as both Other and lost. Back when I was really keeping up with AIDS issues (it is, after all, a fascinating disease), far too many people in the back corridors of power in the fields of public health and global politics and money were whispering, "Africa is lost." The argument generally went: (a) African sexual practices are spreading HIV/AIDS more rapidly than anywhere else in the world, (b) too many Africans are already infected, (c) even if we pour drugs into Africa for those with HIV/AIDS, the rate of infection is already so high that the rate can't be reduced, (d) no matter how many condoms are available, most Africans won't use them, (e) drugs are the only way to slow the rate of infection, and (f) there's not enough time or money to save those with full-blown AIDS, let alone treat those who are only, as yet, HIV-positive. "Our Kind of People" (from the phrase "Our kind of people don't get AIDS"), argues that,in fact, Africa is not lost.
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