The book is a chronicle of the late HIV/AIDS activist Guy Nakatani who died of AIDS. It tells the story of his family and himself and how dealing with this disease became part of the family. It taught the family lessons in forgiveness, love and hope. I felt the book was beautifully written that gave the reader a true sense of what the family must have had to face and endure. The author has written many books on this type of subject but this was a very moving story. It details the life of Al and Jane Nakatani’s three sons.
One had been murdered, one had died of AIDS and the third Guy was presently dying from the disease. The family seemed to mirror most of American families in the United States. The father Alex was a social worker. His wife Jane taught elementary school. They seemed to be the perfect family when they found out their firstborn Glen was gay. His parents disowned him and this seems to be a common practice of parents even today. Glen had felt he was different and left home at the age of 15. His troubled life for thirteen years ended in 1990 when he died of AIDS.
But before this the family had to live through the murder of their middle son Greg. Greg was heterosexual and attending college for engineering. In 1986 he was shot to death in a fight over a car. The killer was an illegal immigrant. Then the tragic news of their youngest dying of AIDS and begin gay soon made the parents realize that unconditional love would be the only thing to save the family. Their youngest died in 1994 he traveled with his father in his final stages spreading Aids Awareness.
The author does a really good job of breaking the family core to find what was the cause of the destruction of this Japanese American family. Finding that the family was dysfunctional and homophobic leading to this destruction. But as the story unfolds the author relates that healing and triumph over these obstacles were possible even with death close. I thought the book was written very compassionate and with humor unlike some books of the same topic that will write more on sympathy or rely on emotions.
The book is a testimony of the human condition at unbelievably unbearable times and how they overcame the obstacles to achieve a point in their lives and culture for forgiveness, love and belief even in light of tragedy. It gives a clear direct message of how the problems of homophobia and aids place a burden physically and psychologically on the family giving way to new ideals of treatment for families affected. This book would complement any class dealing in the topic of death and dying or with anyone that knows of friends and family members dying of AIDS.
The book gave me a different look at a family that had basically the same societal background with a different cultural background than mine. It helped me to see that suffering is the same on all levels. Stereotyping individuals with AIDS looks to me more damaging than the disease itself. Until you read something like this does it remind me of the problem AIDS is in America not just the disease but the general public view. I believe a resurgence of information is needed to get the public to want to help see an end to this deadly plague and believe that reading this book helped to fuel the desire to get involved.