Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ana's Story by Jenna Bush - Book Review

Ana's story - A story of Hope
by Jenna Bush
Harper Collins ARC
Due to be Published October 2007

This is the story of a young Spanish girl, Ana, from Latin America who was born with HIV and how she deals with it as she grows up. Ana's mother who had HIV, and who died of AIDS when Ana was young. After Ana's father died (also of AIDS) Ana and her sister Isabel are sent to live with their grandmother (abuela).

Ana has to take medicine twice a day every day in order to keep her immune system healthy. Ana grew up with having to keep her HIV a secret. Otherwise she might find herself the subject of abuse and discrimintaion, being ostracised and maybe even expelled from school.

Abuela has a boyfriend who rapes Ana and her sister. Ana confesses to a priest and the priest sends the police to the house. So much for the church promising to keep confessionals confidential. so Abuela kicks the girls out and they go to live with a great aunt, Sonia. Within a year Sonia is abusing Ana because Ana is not being respectful (submissive) enough. Once again Ana is forced to leave.

So Ana spends the next few years being moved from home to home and eventually she ends up in reform school. A year after arriving at reform school, Ana is sent to a hogar, a home for teens and adults with HIV. There she and Berto fall in love and Ana becomes pregnant. "It was only one time without protection" - but as we all know, once is all it takes.

Once again Ana must move, but this time she moves to another Aunts house. At age 16 Ana becomes a mother. She names her daughter Beatriz. The narration ends somewhat abruptly at this point. There is a small epilogue, which could easily have been made part of the main narrative to finish the story more neatly.

I first mentioned this book 3 weeks ago.

If Jenna Bush intends for this book to be an AIDs education book for high school students, well it should help get the message across about why safe sex (or abstinence) is so important in order to stay healthy.

Back then late 80s & early 90s, people were very scared of AIDS, since it is a fatal disease. Noone survives it. Noone knew then, what we know now. That HIV can be managed with drugs and when managed properly, one can live with HIV for quite a considerable life span, instead of dying of AIDS at a young age.

This story was supposed to be "based on real stories" - which it may well have been - but I never felt that this story was real while I was reading.

What it lacks is emotion. There is no connection, no real emotion.
There is no profanity, no real descriptions of despair or of real life in the barrios. The worst phrase used was "poorest part of the city". Not even the word rape was written. The act itself was not described. The drugs that Ana has to take in order to survive are not identified. There are no mentions of neighbours being killed, no gang interactions or drug busts, no doctors names, no hospital names, no barrios names. No real interaction with other people in Ana's life. The city and country are not even named, so we cant make an emotional connection.

This narrative is sanitized. Not just with the changed names, but the language and what stories have been told. There is no real emotion in the words I read. Its just a story. The appendices at the back were very preachy. The word abstinance was mentioned a number of times.

I would not reccomend this book to an adult friend. A female teenager would probably like it, but not the guys. This is a girls story from start to finish.

The cover is sanitized just like the narrative. It does not show a real teenager from the barrios. The girl on the cover looks like a model.

I can remember living in New Zealand when Eve Van Grafhorst from Australia came to live there. She had AIDS, but had received it through a contaminated blood transfusion. When Eve was 3 years old she was diagnosed with HIV and thats when the rejection began. Her family was ostracised, shunned and abused. Even Eve's pre-school demanded that she be removed because they didnt want the other children to be infected. The family moved to NZ where they were welcomed and allowed to live somewhat normal lives. Eve became a tireless advocate for AIDS education in NZ, and her family were willing to open their lives to the country. When Eve died at age 11, her funeral was attended by thousands of New Zealanders. The entire country mourned when Eve died. The Australians did nothing except send a token payment that she was entitled to, because she received contaminated blood.

The book ends with a lengthy appendix that includes several tips on how teens can protect themselves against AIDS and other STDs, and it includes sentences like this one: Whether or not you choose to wait until your married or older to become sexually active, give yourself as much time as you need to make a well-thought-out and mature decision. (Since the book is still in galley form, the final text may read differently.) It's hard enough to imagine President Bush signing off on his daughter's decision to take an unpaid position with the dreaded United Nations, but to have her return and repudiate the administration's position that the only kind of sex education kids should be taught is abstinence-only — why, next thing you know, she'll be marching against the war and the repeal of the inheritance tax.

The above was written on July 2nd, 2007. Today is 3 weeks later. My review copy has the exact same paragraph. However the very next paragraph says this. "There is only one way to be 100 percent certain you won't get an STI - abstinence. There are a lot of ways to show you love or care about someone without having sex. If you decide abstinence is right for you, dont let anyone tell you otherwise." It goes to say that if you decide that you are ready for a sexual relationship, then protect yourself and "use a condom every time. No exceptions - ever."

That sounds like George talking to me.

1 comment:

Marg said...

I remember all the controversy about Eve van Grafthorst...really terrible.