The true story of Ruth Coker Burks, a young single mother in Hot Springs, Arkansas, who finds herself driven to the forefront of the AIDS crisis, and becoming a pivotal activist in America's fight against AIDS.
Throughout the memoir, it’s hard not to fall in love with Burks for her big-heartedness and enduring sense of humor in the face of suffering. However, All the Young Men isn’t an uplifting book. Ignorance, denial and cruelty have always been, and always will be, killers. But as Burks forges a path alongside these vulnerable men, her embrace of education and rejection of bigotry light the way forward for us all.
It’s a tale of high drama and mesmerising detail, but also of breathtaking courage and compassion ... The cause is education, combating prejudice and hate, but most of all the cause is love. It’s the love Burks didn’t get from her family or husband. The love she lavishes on these men is deeply moving, and she gets some back. At a gay club she meets a community of drag queens who are like a family. The star of them all, Billy, is the one she loves most ... The ghost writer Kevin Carr O’Leary has taken Burks’s stories and turned them into a beautiful book, catching her Southern sass and charm. The epilogue makes it clear that Ruth Coker Burks has not had the recognition or happiness she deserves.
Burks and her co-writer balance tragedy with bright moments of joy, sly humor and inspiring empathy in this surprisingly pleasurable memoir about bridging cultural divides to nurture one another as human beings ... As a child of the HIV-AIDS crisis, I carry trauma from those days. I’m also grateful to have witnessed true courage and compassion while growing up. That’s what All the Young Men offers anyone who reads it.