Lark's Reviews > We Are All the Same

We Are All the Same by Jim Wooten
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Jun 19, 11


(Spoiler alert)
This book is a narrative of two families' interconnection--one Zulu, and one Anglo South African. The politics of South Africa and, to a lesser degree, of HIV infection, are interwoven with the families' narrative as it focuses on Nkosi, one South African boy living with HIV.

One senses not only that this is a book meant for the general, lay reader, and that the author had a limited kind of permission, emotionally, with his subjects. That is, the intensity of the subject, and the relationships with Nkosi are what they are, taken at face value. They are, of course, intricate and profound enough to hold the reader's interest. At this level of permission, however, Mr. Wooten can tell the story, but often there are deeper questions that are not--cannot be--raised. If he had been able to, it would have been a much different kind of book.

I was left with one stark question--was Nkosi's ultimate demise becuase, as the book says, HIV had simply too badly damaged his immune system, or, as I suspect, because in South Africa he did not have the resources available to try multiple, combined ARV (anti-retroviral) drugs. This is the sort of ethically jarring question that hangs, unanswered, over Africa and all that is written and filmed there. (I wondered exactly the same question during a Doctors Without Borders documentary filmed in Uganda--"HIV too far advanced" to be treated, they said.) One wants to believe that all medically known options were available, but almost knows, given the context (ie, lack of basic hygiene, antibiotics, etc, and the difficulty of getting any ARVs at all), that they were not.
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