All the Young Men: A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South (Unabridged)
“My friend Ruth Coker Burks is one of the most amazing people I know. The care she gave HIV-positive gay men in and around our hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas during the desperate early days of the AIDS crisis helped them live and die with dignity in the face of stigma and discrimination. In All the Young Men, Ruth tells their stories and hers with the same warmth, wit, grace, and gumption that I have admired for decades. This book will make you love her as much as I do.” (President Bill Clinton)
In 1986, 26-year-old Ruth is visiting a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who will tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. Before she can even process what she’s done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men afflicted by AIDS, and she is called upon to nurse them.
As she forges deep friendships with the men she helps, she works tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, even searching for funeral homes willing to take their bodies - often in the middle of the night. She cooks meals for tens of people out of discarded food found in the dumpsters behind supermarkets, stores rare medications for her most urgent patients, teaches sex ed to drag queens after hours at secret bars, and becomes a beacon of hope to an otherwise spurned group of ailing gay men on the fringes of a deeply conservative state.
The power of compassion
Wow- this big was amazing heartbreaking and encouraging.
I graduated from high school in 1993 in a small town in Iowa I found this book unbelievably relatable and the author to be one of the most amazing women in history! This was beautiful absolutely beautiful thank you.