Jim Wooten attempts to bring awareness to the continued struggle of AIDS in South Africa through telling the story of a young and influential victim during the early 2000s. The book does a good job telling the boy, Nkosi’s story from start to finish, including aspects of the the past that played into the boys upbringing, and important aspects of the current economic, social, and political context in which the boy and his new family navigates throughout his life. Wooten uses the boy’s story to highlight the challenges faced by AIDS victims even as medicine exists, and how political ignorance and the economic remnants of Apartheid has exacerbated these challenges — even in 2004, 8 years after the triple antiretroviral cocktail first came out.
Wooten does well to hook the reader to the charismatic and intelligent Nkosi, albeit balancing the tightrope between objective journalism and subjective storytelling; he offers a holistic view of the modern AIDS epidemic in South Africa, but his love for the boy is undeniable in this portrayal — something that is not necessarily bad for the story but at points threatens to undermine his journalistic integrity. This presents itself when at the end of the book he very nearly villainizes the boy’s original family — his grandmother and sister — but then chooses to step back from delving too deep into the family drama and the economic, social and political divide that characterizes their relationship to Nkosi’s new family.
I could use this for its journalistic long form prose, as well as its ability to tackle the complexities of a current sociopolitical issue in another part of the world, while effectively humanizing the issue for those who might not otherwise be interested.