Archive for the ‘AIDS’ Category

There are books that you don’t put down because you are obligated to read them, either because of a Positiveschool assignment or a journal review, which was the case with the book I read before Positive: A Memoir. Then there are the books you don’t put down because they are so good or so absorbing you want to/need to keep reading, which is the case with Paige Rawl’s story of the middle school bullying she faced and overcame because of her HIV+ status.

At the age of three, Paige and her mother were diagnosed HIV+. Her mother contracted it through Paige’s father and passed it on to her. Their lives would never be the same. There was the regimen of pills to counteract the HIV,  and pills to  moderate the depression and loss of appetite caused by the medication. But that was their lives and Paige knew nothing different. To her, her disability or illness was no different than someone with asthma or allergies. So when she mentioned it to her best friend, Yasmine, in passing (“everyone has something”) the reaction was so unexpected. Within minutes, this knowledge was spread to other students who lost no time in ridiculing her, calling her Ho and PAID, telling her she has AIDS and making life miserable.

We all know the impact of bullying on teens. We read it in the newspapers all the time. Teen suicide is on the rise. Cutting is becoming more prevalent. It was no different with Paige. She went through all these emotions. We also know that schools are ill equipped to counteract bullying, as was Paige’s school. One counselor told her to ‘just don’t tell anyone you’re HIV+”. Another told her “to cut the drama”. She was unable to get satisfaction through our legal system as well, unable to get a trial in order to make her situation public.

Luckily for Paige, she was able to overcome this. She had a very supportive mother and some great friends who stood by her.

Listen, in my mind, bullying doesn’t even have to be directed at a person. Even commenting amongst ourselves is a form of bullying. If you see an effeminate man and make comments to your co-workers, that’s a form a bullying. If you see a man dressed in women’s clothing and whisper, that’s a form of bullying, only because you are not seeing what’s inside that person and you’re denigrating him. And what’s the next step you might take? Openly commenting?

Positive: A Memoir is a low key, eye opening book. Paige is the exception to the rule. She ultimately chose to be an anti-bullying activist and tell people her story. Most young adults aren’t able to make that leap. Most suffer alone, afraid to tell an adult or having told someone, watch as nothing is done, no or minimal action taken.

With an Introduction by Jay Asher and a list of resources and facts at the end, Positive: A Memoir is a quietly powerful book.

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is ostensibly about AIDS but equally TellTheWolvesImHomeimportantly it’s about siblings, how they feel about each other, what they do to each other, their hopes and dreams and needs. Fourteen year old June Elbus’ uncle Finn (her mother’s brother) is dying of AIDS. An artist, he embarks upon a portrait of June and her older sister Greta as a remembrance of him but also to ensure their togetherness. June is a naïve 14 year old and didn’t know anything about Finn’s boyfriend Toby until he shows up at the funeral. No one in the Elbus family will even acknowledge him.

June feels that she, more than anyone else, misses Finn. But when Toby contacts her and they meet secretly, it becomes apparent that Toby is hurting as much. Also, many of the things she attributed to Finn were really done by Toby. When June realizes that Toby has AIDS and is critically ill, she tries to fulfill Finn’s wish that she befriend and take care of Toby who has no one.  But it’s tough while her family believes that Toby was the person who got Finn sick in the first place.

While this back story which takes place in the mid 1980s when AIDS began to make its appearance, realistically portrays people’s ignorance of the disease, the real drama, the meat, in my mind is how Greta feels towards June as June gravitates towards Finn away from her. It also is about how Danni, June’s mother, feels when Finn as a young man goes off to see the world, leaving Danni at home.

I read somewhere that you shouldn’t use poignant in a review, but Tell the Wolves I’m Home is poignant at times. It is a wonderful tribute to siblings. It is a young girl’s desire to do the right thing amid the emotions of loss, the mixed signals of parents and an inner voice that really doesn’t know what’s right.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is not my normal genre. A Facebook author friend recommended it and I’m glad. It will bring many of us back to a place we haven’t been in a very long time. It will also show you how far we’ve come…which is a good thing.

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