The facilitator began the discussion by asking, “How many of you have actually read the book?” Only one hand in the crowded room rose. “How many of you know a child orphaned by AIDS?” A few more hands. “How many of you have a family member affected by HIV/AIDS?” Still more. “How many of you know your HIV status?” Nearly two thirds of the hands were raised. “How many of you know someone who has died of AIDS or complications from AIDS?” Many more hands slowly rose. “Now, how many of you have not raised your hand in response to my last five questions?” One sole hand was raised.
The author began, “If the apartheid government had allowed this to happen, the entire world would be up in arms – Genocide! They would be crying. So why did we allow our black government to be in denial about AIDS in South Africa? Why?”
A colleague invited me to attend a book reading in Johannesburg. We sat, transformed by the words of the writer, Sindiwe Magona. She couldn’t have been more than five feet tall (if even), yet she filled the room with her passion, her disappointment, her pleas to action. The book involves the FFF, five firm friends, and what happens when one of them, Beauty, dies of AIDS, infected by her husband. As she is dying, she implores the others not to let the same fate befall them.
Moved by the author’s passion, I bought Beauty’s Gift and completed it by the next day. It’s one of those books that when you reach the end of the chapter, you think, I’ll just read one more, and before you know it, have reached the end.