Synopses & Reviews
The extraordinary story of the little South African boy whose bravery and fierce determination to make a difference despite being born with AIDS has made him the human symbol of the world's fight against the disease, told by the veteran American journalist whose life he changed.
Five million more people contracted HIV last year alone. We've all seen the statistics, and they numb us; on some level our minds shut down to a catastrophe of this scope. As with other such immense human tragedies in the past, it can take the story of one special child's life to make us open our minds and our hearts.
While the majority of all AIDS cases occur in Africa, a South African boy named Nkosi Johnson did not become "an icon of the struggle for life," in Nelson Mandela's words, because he was representative but because he was so very remarkable. Everyone who met Nkosi Johnson was struck by his blinding life force, his powerful intelligence and drive, his determination to make something of his short life. By the time of his death, the work he had done in his eleven years on earth was such that the New York Times ran his obituary on the front page, as did many other papers, and tributes appeared on the evening news broadcasts of every major network.
Nkosi Johnson did not live to tell his own story, but one writer whose life he changed has taken up the work of telling it for him. Luckily for the world that writer is Jim Wooten. In his hands, We Are All the Same is a powerful testament to the strength of the human spirit, even as it bears witness to the scope of the tragedy that is unfolding in Africa and around the world, cutting down millions of boys and girls like Nkosi Johnson before they can reach their promise. Written with the brevity and power of a parable, We Are All the Same is a book that is meant to be read by all of us, of all ages and walks of life. Its beginning and ending are terribly sad, but in the middle is the extraordinarily inspiring story of a very unlucky little boy who said, Never mind. I'm going to make my life matter. And he did.
"The author, an award-winning senior correspondent for ABC News, has written an extraordinarily moving account of a courageous South African boy's battle with AIDS that is also a scathing indictment of South African leaders who have failed to confront the AIDS epidemic in their country. Nkosi, born in 1989 in the former Zululand, was infected by his poverty-stricken mother, Daphne. As Wooten recounts, Daphne moved heaven and earth to insure that her son would be provided for after her own death and agreed to his adoption, at age three, by Gail Johnson, a white South African, who had met Nkosi at a hospice. A hero in her own right, Johnson nourished Nkosi's strong spirit, which gave out only when he died at the age of 12. Before then, Johnson and Nkosi traveled internationally to gain support for Nkosi's Haven, a home for women and children with AIDS in South Africa. Looking at the larger picture, Wooten points out that Nelson Mandela refused to deal with the AIDS crisis because he was embarrassed to speak publicly about sex (a position he later said he regretted). Mandela's successor, Thabo Mkebi, has also hampered attempts to get antiretroviral drugs to AIDS victims, absurdly denying that the virus HIV exists. According to Wooten, 20% of South African girls are currently infected with HIV and 7,000 infants die of AIDS each month. This powerful account puts a human face on a catastrophic epidemic that grows worse daily. (On sale Nov. 4) Forecast: Nkosi's fame was such that his obituary appeared on the front page of the New York Times. A tie-in to World AIDS Day promotion should help garner sales for this title. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] heartfelt account....[T]he story of one valiant little boy and his remarkable foster mother goes right to the heart." Kirkus Reviews
"[Wooten] writes passionately about Gail's fight....Most haunting is the breakup of black family life stretching back across generations, the desperation of the teen who gets AIDS and gives it to her son." Booklist
We Are All the Same is a powerful testament to the strength of the human spirit, even as it bears witness to the scope of the tragedy that is unfolding in Africa and around the world, cutting down millions of children like Nkosi Johnson.
"Wooten has pulled off something close to miraculous... and touched the face of HIV/AIDS with compassion and humanity. —Alexandra Fuller, Chicago Tribune
"This is a book not to be missed." —People
"Amazing and tender... in this special book [Wooten] brings home the tragedy of AIDS." —Liz Smith, New York Post
"Wooten rightly disregards journalistic distance and writes himself into the work, making it read like a contemplative literary memoir." —Time Out New York
About the Author
Jim Wooten is ABC News' Senior Correspondent and contributes to World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Nightline, Good Morning America, and other ABC News broadcasts. In 1994, his reports from Rwanda and Zaire for World News Tonight and Nightline won the Overseas Press Club Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and the Joe Alex Morris Award from Harvard University for distinguished foreign reporting. Before joining ABC News, Wooten had been on the staff of Esquire magazine; written a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer; and served as a bureau chief, national correspondent, and White House correspondent for the New York Times.