All the Young Men: How One Woman Risked It All To Care For The Dying (Hardback)
  • All the Young Men: How One Woman Risked It All To Care For The Dying (Hardback)
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All the Young Men: How One Woman Risked It All To Care For The Dying (Hardback)

(author)
£16.99
Hardback 368 Pages / Published: 21/01/2021
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Waterstones Says

By turns shocking, inspiring and deeply moving, Coker Burks account of caring for men with HIV and AIDS in conservative 1980s America affirms the ignorance and prejudice with which the condition was treated and the courage and determination displayed by those willing to defy the strictures of authority.

'If I have one message with this book it's that we all have to care for one another. Today, not just in 1986. Life is about caring for each other, and I learned more about life from the dying than I ever learned from the living. It's in an elephant ride, it's in those wildflowers dancing on their way to the shared grave of two men in love, and it's in caring for that young man who just needed information without judgement.'

In 1986, 26-year-old Ruth Coker Burks visits a friend in hospital when she notices that the door to one of the patient's rooms is painted red. The nurses are reluctant to enter, drawing straws to decide who will tend to the sick person inside. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life.

And in doing so, Ruth's own life changes forever.

As word spreads in the community that she is the only person willing to help the young men afflicted by the growing AIDS crisis, Ruth goes from being an ordinary young mother to an accidental activist. Forging deep friendships with the men she helps, Ruth works to find them housing and jobs, and then funeral homes willing to take their bodies - often in the middle of the night. She prepares and delivers meals to 'her guys,' supplementing her own income with discarded food found in the dumpsters behind supermarkets. She defies local pastors and the medical community to store rare medications for her most urgent patients, and teaches sex education to drag queens after hours at secret bars. Emboldened by the weight of their collective pain, she fervently advocates for their safety and visibility, ultimately advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis, and in doing so becomes a beacon of hope to an otherwise spurned group of ailing gay men on the fringes of society.

Ruth kept her story a secret for years, fearful of repercussions within her deeply conservative community. But at a time when it's more important than ever to stand up for those who can't, Ruth has found the courage to have her voice - and the voices of those who were stigmatised, rejected and abandoned - heard.

Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
ISBN: 9781409189107
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 600 g
Dimensions: 236 x 162 x 36 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

'All The Young Men is an urgent story that needs to be told about the early years of AIDS in the American South. From her first moving encounter with an abandoned young man hours before he died, Ruth Coker Burks cares for ill gay men and fights homophobia with compassion, wit, courage and righteous anger. It's inspiring and compelling to read of her battles against indignities and intimidation, bigoted families and churches, and demeaning health care. The reader cheers her on when Coker Burks finds both opponents and allies in her work. She writes of Jimmy, Howard, Douglas, Danny, Neil, Tim and Jim, Marc, Bob and Phil, Chip, Luke, Angel, Jerry, Misty, Billy and all her 'guys': 'I wanted them to be counted, to have their lives matter.' All The Young Men achieves that beautifully, memorably, in their honour. - Robert Hamberger, author of A Length of Road

'This astonishing modern-day Good Samaritan story will move you to tears of sadness and outrage, but also buoy you. For Coker Burns is a do-gooder with sass. And hers is a story of ordinary but heroic human empathy that we could all do with reading right now..' Carole Sanderson, The Bookseller

'A powerful memoir... Burks's spirited, straightforward prose balances the heartbreak of her story with just enough humor and toughness. A must-read for anyone interested in narratives of front-line responses to the early AIDS crisis as well as personal accounts of kindness and determination.' - Library Journal, starred review

'Burks' vivid memories of 'my guys' and the trials she endured fighting against prejudice offer a portrait of courageous compassion that is both rare and inspiring . . . [A] deeply moving, meaningful book.' - Kirkus Reviews

'Anecdotes of small-town gay bars and drag queen rivalries add levity to tales of hardship and sacrifice-crosses set ablaze on her lawn, her young daughter ostracized at school . . . This worthy account offers as much bitter as sweet.' - Publishers Weekly

'If you are hungry for a humane approach to an epidemic, read this astonishing book.' - Richie Jackson, author of Gay Like

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“One of the most inspiring books of 2021.”

26 years old, single mum Ruth , visiting her cancer patient friend , sees a room with the door painted red. When she enters it, she finds a young man on the verge of death from the most feared illness at the time,... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 42

“Shocking”

Thank you to the publishers for an early review copy, I found this book rather shocking in many places.
Firstly, if this had been given to me as a work of fiction, I would have thought it was too far fetched,... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 33

“Everyone should read this wonderful, heartbreaking book”

All the Young Men is a beautifully written memoir about a subject I didn’t know a huge amount about prior to reading it, however it taught me so much in 300 pages and I’ll be eternally grateful it came into my life. I... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 33

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