counter create hit All the Young Men - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

All the Young Men

Availability: Ready to download

In 1986, 26-year old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries fo In 1986, 26-year old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. Before she can even process what she's done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men afflicted by AIDS, and is called upon to nurse them. As she forges deep friendships with the men she helps, she works tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, even searching for funeral homes willing to take their bodies - often in the middle of the night. She cooks meals for tens of people out of discarded food found in the dumpsters behind supermarkets, stores rare medications for her most urgent patients, teaches sex-ed to drag queens after hours at secret bars, and becomes a beacon of hope to an otherwise spurned group of ailing gay men on the fringes of a deeply conservative state. Throughout the years, Ruth defies local pastors and nurses to help the men she cares for: Paul and Billy, Angel, Chip, Todd and Luke. Emboldened by the weight of their collective pain, she fervently advocates for their safety and visibility, ultimately advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis. This deeply moving and elegiac memoir honors the extraordinary life of Ruth Coker Burks and the beloved men who fought valiantly for their lives with AIDS during a most hostile and misinformed time in America.


Compare

In 1986, 26-year old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries fo In 1986, 26-year old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. Before she can even process what she's done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men afflicted by AIDS, and is called upon to nurse them. As she forges deep friendships with the men she helps, she works tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, even searching for funeral homes willing to take their bodies - often in the middle of the night. She cooks meals for tens of people out of discarded food found in the dumpsters behind supermarkets, stores rare medications for her most urgent patients, teaches sex-ed to drag queens after hours at secret bars, and becomes a beacon of hope to an otherwise spurned group of ailing gay men on the fringes of a deeply conservative state. Throughout the years, Ruth defies local pastors and nurses to help the men she cares for: Paul and Billy, Angel, Chip, Todd and Luke. Emboldened by the weight of their collective pain, she fervently advocates for their safety and visibility, ultimately advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis. This deeply moving and elegiac memoir honors the extraordinary life of Ruth Coker Burks and the beloved men who fought valiantly for their lives with AIDS during a most hostile and misinformed time in America.

30 review for All the Young Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I don’t read very many memoirs, but when I do, I need them to be about extraordinary people and I was not disappointed. Right from the start, we see the fear that people had of those with AIDS,the fear of the unknown of how the disease might spread, even by health care workers as evidenced by Ruth Coker Burks’ first connection with a man on his deathbed in a hospital with a single cry “ help”. Right from the start, we see Ruth’s compassion, her innate belief that helping was the right thing to d I don’t read very many memoirs, but when I do, I need them to be about extraordinary people and I was not disappointed. Right from the start, we see the fear that people had of those with AIDS,the fear of the unknown of how the disease might spread, even by health care workers as evidenced by Ruth Coker Burks’ first connection with a man on his deathbed in a hospital with a single cry “ help”. Right from the start, we see Ruth’s compassion, her innate belief that helping was the right thing to do. We meet gay men wanting to come home to Arkansas to their families only to be told by one mother “Your soul is rot.” There are some gut wrenching accounts of the lack of care and treatment, how they are shunned by their families, by their communities. This is a book filled with the undying courage and huge heart of a woman whose guts and kindness make you wish you were a better person. In Hot Springs Arkansas in 1986, with the odds against these men, Ruth manages to provide food, moral support, testing, condoms, assistance with getting social security, finding a place to live, a place to be buried, literally burying their ashes in her family cemetery. The word spreads that she is someone who will help and she begins to get calls from hospitals to make arrangements to remove the bodies when no one else will . The words spreads and some of the ailing men start to call her directly wanting her help to come home. Even as her personal life is falling apart, she rises to the occasion. She is shunned by her church, by one of her best friends, by her ex husband’s family wanting to shut out her daughter, but somehow she is courageous enough to stand up to them for herself, for her daughter as well as the many gay men she helps and comes to love. She learns to draw blood when they couldn’t get tests, she finds ways of getting medication. She becomes friend, mother, caregiver, and a fighter for rights of these men, and an adviser to President Clinton on the AIDS Epidemic. So well written with Kevin Carr O’Leary, this telling is emotional, gut wrenching, and I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s a depiction of the AIDs crisis, not just in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but a reflection of what happened to so many men during that time everywhere. Highly recommended if you’re looking to find way to still believe in the goodness of people. It’s uplifting and inspiring. It’s a story of one extraordinary woman and a tribute to those she loved. I received a copy of this book from Grove Press through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    Ruth Coker Burks was a young single mom living in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the spring of 1986 along with her young daughter, a daughter whose father was in the picture on weekends until a car accident changed that. But she found a family of another kind when one day she was visiting her best friend in the hospital, and happened to notice a group of nurses who were drawing straws to see who would go in to check on a patient. The patient inside a room with a red door with six Styrofoam food trays Ruth Coker Burks was a young single mom living in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the spring of 1986 along with her young daughter, a daughter whose father was in the picture on weekends until a car accident changed that. But she found a family of another kind when one day she was visiting her best friend in the hospital, and happened to notice a group of nurses who were drawing straws to see who would go in to check on a patient. The patient inside a room with a red door with six Styrofoam food trays on the floor of the hall…like they were feeding a dog with a sign that read BIOHAZARD. She could hear a sound from the other side of the door, a sound so soft she could barely hear the word: ’Help.’ And so she went in to offer that help, asking what he needed, and he said, simply: ’I want my mama.’ So off she went, believing if she could just reach his mother, she would certainly come right away, and heads to the nurses station to tell them. When they refuse to call, after telling her his mama won’t come anyway, she calls the woman herself. The first time the woman hangs up, so she calls back, telling the woman off, and the woman replies to her that her son is already dead. Dead to her, although she doesn’t say that, but says he died when he ‘went gay.’ She heads back to his room, worried about what she’s going to tell him, but when she walks in, he turns to her and says: ’Oh, Mama, I knew you’d come,’ and reaches out to her. She takes his hand, letting him know she was there. She stays by his side, prays for him, for herself, for her daughter, she stays for thirteen hours. When he asks her what is going to happen to him, she says: ’Oh, angel, I’m not letting go of this hand here until Jesus takes the other one. I’m gonna stay right here until He says He is ready for you.’ And this is the beginning of how Ruth Coker Burks went from a woman who sold timeshares to a woman advocating for a better life for men like Jimmy, a woman seeking out a way to reach gay men and teach them how to avoid getting AIDS, but also how a cemetery she inherited became not only Jimmy’s final resting place, but for many that followed. An act born of spite turned into a blessing this woman would come to be grateful for. A place of solace, a final resting place for what would end up to be so many more. By the end of that summer, she’d buried eight men. ’Sitting with them, I saw a river. I felt like I was taking these young men in my arms and carrying them across the river to the other side. And there were all the friends and family, people who wouldn’t judge them, waiting to take them. I took them over that river and handed them safely to those who would love them.’ There’s so much more to this story, so many others she goes on to help, to advocate for. As phone calls begin to pour in, she learns more about this disease, and more ways to help, spending more time in hospitals, and visiting those who are not yet in hospitals. Offering them what others don’t seem to be willing to give – dignity. For this, she was ostracized by others, beginning with the members of her church. Apparently, they skipped over that part about ‘As I have loved you, love one another.’ A lesson her daughter learned at her side, by observing the love, food, assistance and care her mother freely gave these men. This was an incredibly engaging read, I had a hard time putting it down – even when I absolutely had to. Inspiring, if heartbreaking at times, I highly recommended. Published: 01 Dec 2020 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Grove Press / Ingram Publisher Services via Edelweiss

  3. 5 out of 5

    Collin

    Three nurses draw straws to see who must attend to the patient in the room with the red tarp covering the door. The patient, or whatever lies behind that door must pose a danger to the nurses because even after the loser has drawn the short straw they still argue, none of them wanting to cross the threshold. Ruth, who is visiting her friend who has cancer, is curious when she comes across the nurses and the door. She must move closer to read the writing. While the nurses still argue about who mus Three nurses draw straws to see who must attend to the patient in the room with the red tarp covering the door. The patient, or whatever lies behind that door must pose a danger to the nurses because even after the loser has drawn the short straw they still argue, none of them wanting to cross the threshold. Ruth, who is visiting her friend who has cancer, is curious when she comes across the nurses and the door. She must move closer to read the writing. While the nurses still argue about who must enter the room, Ruth slips past them. BIOHAZARD is written on the door in bold capital letters. Styrofoam food trays litter the floor around the door. A desperate, weak cry of help goads Ruth into peering into the room behind the red tarp. This is Ruth’s first look at an AIDS patient, and the sickly emaciated body shocks her. The year is 1986, not much is known about AIDS yet, and ignorance fuels fear. The courage that Ruth displays when she enters the young man’s room to console and wash his face is astounding considering that at this early stage, the medical community was still trying to find information on how the disease was transmitted, hence the nurses reluctance to enter. It is an early indication, and testament, to just what type of woman Ruth is when she stays with him until he passes and then organizes his cremation. All this for somebody she just met, and who, in Ruth’s eyes at the time, could pass on a lethal disease. This tragic meeting is the catalyst that starts off Ruth’s amazing life of helping the young men dying of AIDS. The men that nobody wanted anything to do with. I simply cannot believe the lengths she goes to, helping these strangers. At first just being there as a comfort for the dying men, organizing their cremations, with little to no help. However, she does not stop there. She researches the disease, building her knowledge, looking for cures or preventative medicines, while pilfering drugs and paraphernalia to treat the patients. This is one incredible lady. What makes her do this? There is no pay, no rewards, in fact the complete opposite. She is demonized, vilified, banned from medical establishments, and yet she keeps going, incredibly, increasing the help and support she provides with each day. She finds food, shelter, when money and food stamps run out, she looks for fund raising opportunities and donations. She goes through dumpsters getting food that is fresh and edible just thrown out from a wasteful society. Again, this is for people she does not know, dying of a deadly disease. She does it because she feels it is the right thing to do. This memoir is not just about Ruth helping these men. It is about her own personal struggle being a single parent and raising a young daughter amongst her chaotic life. The effect that her decision to help these men and choose this path has on her daughter’s life. The father forever behind in child support payments, payments that are rarely paid at all. Her own childhood, growing up without a father, and a clinically crazy mother who clinically destroys every chance of Ruth having a happy, normal childhood. It is not an embellishment to say that people like Ruth played a vital role in the fight against AIDS. It may not have been so obvious at the time, and progress was painfully slow, but progress in almost all facets of the fight was slowly made. Awareness, treatment, myths dispelled. Ruth had the courage and the morals to help, when most of the world turned a blind eye. While reading this memoir I was constantly reminded of “The Great Believers” by Rebecca Makkai. These recollections made this book, and what Ruth achieved even more impressive. Another book that restores my faith in humanity. 4.5 Stars! Thanks to Netgally and Grove Press for the ARC.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Metcalf

    As recently as last week I became aware of this memoir when I read a trusted friends five star review of it. It sounded inspiring and Angela's words describing All The Young Men. A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South brought to mind Abraham Verghese's book 'My own Country. A Doctor's Story of a Town and it's People In The Age of AIDS' which I'd read some two or three years ago. I had been mightily impressed, shocked and moved by the Verghese title and this one impacted As recently as last week I became aware of this memoir when I read a trusted friends five star review of it. It sounded inspiring and Angela's words describing All The Young Men. A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South brought to mind Abraham Verghese's book 'My own Country. A Doctor's Story of a Town and it's People In The Age of AIDS' which I'd read some two or three years ago. I had been mightily impressed, shocked and moved by the Verghese title and this one impacted me in exactly the same way. Though this is a story about the early years of AIDS I found myself reading with a similar mindset as the one I have when reading holocaust stories. Both are important because they remind us of our recent history and provide important lessons to help ensure our mistakes are never repeated. I feel shocked at the atrocious ways people behave towards others, the way they're able to turn a blind eye to what's going on around them. I feel the utmost admiration for those who stepped up to come to the aid of others and I find myself challenged to wonder which of the two categories I would find myself in. I'd like to think I'd be in the latter category of those who risked everything for others but fear I would not have the strength nor courage to be that person. Ruth Coker Burks is one person who definitely fell into that category. Ruth was not a health professional in the regularly accepted sense. She did not study as a medical practitioner but despite her lack of formal qualifications she was so much more of a carer to dozens (scores) of people from across the state of Arkansas than other so called carers - Doctors, family members, religious groups and even morticians. In a time when fear and ignorance of AIDS prevailed, where homosexuality was an actual crime and prejudice against gays was rife. In a time when whole communities were prepared to turn away, to shun, to ignore, to abuse and to simply refuse to provide any assistance or compassion whatsoever to AIDS sufferers Ruth was out there literally getting her hands dirty and getting things done. Her greatest gift was that of compassion, showing these men and women that somebody cared for them. She fed, bathed and cared for them. She advocated on their behalf. She researched and learnt all she could and then educated others. She sought practical assistance, food and housing, she co-ordinated medical attention and medication, and when the end came she arranged funerals and buried the poor souls whose families had disowned them. This lady was top of the class in the real world school of good deeds and humanity. There was no mention of any kind of recognition for her and she was certainly not in it for the money, but in my opinion she deserves commendation for her actions. Top marks too for Kevin Carr O'Leary who put her story into words. He made it an engaging and highly readable work and I thank him for his efforts in sharing Ruths story. My thanks must also go to Grove Press and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review which it was my pleasure to provide.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I have thought long and hard about what to say about this book, and whatever I come up with doesn’t seem to do it justice. This is a book that will shake you to your very core, restore your faith in humanity, and leave you forever changed. This book is a beautiful testament to the power of human compassion and the impact that one person can make in the life of another person, community, city, state, and country. I have long believed that angels walk among us, and Ruth Coker Burks is proof of tha I have thought long and hard about what to say about this book, and whatever I come up with doesn’t seem to do it justice. This is a book that will shake you to your very core, restore your faith in humanity, and leave you forever changed. This book is a beautiful testament to the power of human compassion and the impact that one person can make in the life of another person, community, city, state, and country. I have long believed that angels walk among us, and Ruth Coker Burks is proof of that. At 26 years old Ruth, a single mom, is visiting a friend in the hospital when she steps out into the hallway and notices three nurses drawing straws and arguing over who will have to enter the door at the end of hall; the door covered in red biohazard plastic. As curiosity gets the best of her Ruth slips down the hall to peak inside, when she hears a muted, “help.” As she walks inside she sees the skeletal frame of Jimmy, calling for his mother. As she walks up to the nurses they stare in shock, asking in disbelief if she had just come from the room at the end of the hall. She tells them she has, and tell her he has AIDS. She tells the nurses he is asking for his mother and they tell her she will not come; that she wants nothing to do with him due to his AIDS status and the fact he’s gay. Saddened Ruth walks back into Jimmy’s room and sits beside him, holding his hand, until hours later he passes from this life to the next. Little did she know this was only the first of many young men she would watch die, and would be the beginning of her fight for rights of persons with HIV and AIDS. Over the years she created her own network, taking her guys to doctor’s appointments, helping them get social security benefits, cooking and delivering meals for them, holding their hands in their final moments, and most of the time arranging for their cremation, and the burying them herself under cover of darkness; as many were afraid that AIDS would infect the cemetery. Ruth also monitored symptoms, recorded therapies and their effects, helped her patients get medicine, and visited strip clubs and bars to provide safe sex education and condoms as measures of prevention. While reading this book I cried, I laughed, I cheered for Ruth and her guys, I became angry with the medical staff who chose to remain ignorant and treat their HIV/AIDS patients as lesser beings. I felt fear when Ruth received threats; and disgust when one family showed up only after a death to claim his belongings. This is a must read for everyone!! I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this book. And I would like to thank Ruth Coker Burks for stepping in where so many failed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Sometimes when you browse around on NetGalley, you find a book that calls out to you and that you know you have to read, whether you get approved for it or not, and fortunately, I was lucky enough to be approved for All the Young Men: A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South by Ruth Coker Burks with Kevin Carr O'Leary (Grove Press, 2020). I was born in 1980; AIDS and HIV were fully on my radar by the time I turned 10. Even in the Catholic school I attended, we watched vide Sometimes when you browse around on NetGalley, you find a book that calls out to you and that you know you have to read, whether you get approved for it or not, and fortunately, I was lucky enough to be approved for All the Young Men: A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South by Ruth Coker Burks with Kevin Carr O'Leary (Grove Press, 2020). I was born in 1980; AIDS and HIV were fully on my radar by the time I turned 10. Even in the Catholic school I attended, we watched videos and learned about the virus and the devastating effects it had on the human body and the gay community. In eighth grade, my class watched And the Band Played On. I remember our teachers being very emphatic about the ways you couldn't catch the virus, and that it was okay to hug people who had it, touch them, take care of them. I'm part of the first generation for whom AIDS has always been a concern, for whom these stories have always been in the news, and, having heard the name Ruth Coker Burks before, I knew this was an important book that I needed to read. Ruth Coker Burks was visiting a friend in the hospital in her home state of Arkansas on day in the early 80's when she became intrigued as to why a door was covered in red and the nurses seemed afraid to go in. Upon learning that the patient had AIDS, Ruth went in anyway and proceed to sit with the man, holding his hand and staying with him until he died. Afterwards, she buried the man's ashes in her family's cemetary; his own family refused to take custody of his cremains. This event set Ruth down a path that would define her entire life, taking care of sick AIDS patients and being with them when they died, feeding the ones who were still alive, advocating for them to receive medical care, housing assistance, and disability. As they grew sicker, she upped her level of care, and she began a course of education, aiming to prevent the spread of the disease in the gay community around her hometown. In a time where no one else stepped up to the plate, Ruth Coker Burns recognized a need and saw her responsibility to be the solution. Her life wasn't an easy one. Her community, including her church, ostracized her. Work wasn't easy to come by. Her former in-laws offered no help with or for their grandchild. Friends expressed disgust at what she was doing and dropped her. Displaying acts of courage that are rare these days, Ruth never gave up, creating a family and a loving community out of the men she was helping to live and die with dignity. All the Young Men is a necessary story for any reading list. This is a gut-punch of a book that will introduce younger readers into the perversion of humanity that was the AIDS epidemic, where parents refused to have contact with their children, where patients were starved for human touch, where the friends that nursed a person through his last days were thrown out or barred from attending funerals by the family who had previously cast the ill person out. There are numerous painful moments throughout this book, for Ruth, for her guys, as she called them, for their friends. She bears so much pain with courage and grace, never once giving in to despair or turning someone away because it's too much. If you need to restore your faith in humanity and in the idea that one person can indeed make a difference, Ruth Coker Burks's story is one to read. The writing style of All the Young Men is more 'down home Arkansas' than it is Shakespeare, but this doesn't detract from the importance of the story at all. What Ruth Coker Burks has penned here is a stunning narrative of her own human decency, about which she never brags or boasts, in a time when the world was starved for it. She showed up when others refused. She held the hands of the dying when others wouldn't even enter the room. There's a quote from Frederick Douglass that says, "Praying for freedom never did me any good 'til I started praying with my feet." While others sat in the pews on Sunday, listening to and agreeing with a pastor who condemned her, Ruth was praying with her feet. All the Young Men is easy to read in style, but tough on emotions, as it should be. This isn't a particularly fun time of history to revisit, but it's important. Especially these days, when we're seeing record numbers of people disavow the humanity in others by refusing to protect them from Covid-19 (full disclosure: I'm writing this at the end of June 2020); it's difficult to be confronted with the fact that we really haven't come that far. But what makes the difference is that people like Ruth Coker Burks exist and are out there praying with their feet, caring, helping. 'Look for the helpers,' Mister Rogers taught us. Ruth Coker Burks is one of the best helpers, and this book, and her life, is a testament to that. Would that more people had her sense of compassion and duty. Huge thanks to NetGalley and Grove Press for allowing me an early copy of All the Young Men to read and review. (This will be posted on my blog on the book's release date; this review will be updated with a link..)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    I first heard of Ruth Coker Burks, the author of All the Young Men, on television. This book delves into so much more of her personality, her life, and her work and mission. Burks is a truly remarkable woman who let nothing stand in her way of helping men living with AIDS. Ruth Burks is a hero, a humanitarian and a saint. She writes about her life's work helping AIDS patients while also educating doctors, nurses, clergy and the general public at a time in history when little was known about the I first heard of Ruth Coker Burks, the author of All the Young Men, on television. This book delves into so much more of her personality, her life, and her work and mission. Burks is a truly remarkable woman who let nothing stand in her way of helping men living with AIDS. Ruth Burks is a hero, a humanitarian and a saint. She writes about her life's work helping AIDS patients while also educating doctors, nurses, clergy and the general public at a time in history when little was known about the disease. The men under her care were often treated with disdain, even by healthcare workers and their own families. Not trained as a doctor, Burks tested, treated and even, buried the ill men she cared for, as they often had no one else to rely on. Burks is a southerner who had the personality needed to confront and stand up to the prejudices and insults often displayed toward men sick with AIDS. She also had just the right touch of humor (I couldn't help but laugh out loud a couple of times), which helped to make a book about the sadness and pain surrounding such a difficult subject bearable, and even enjoyable. All the Young Men is powerful, emotional and heartfelt. A must read. I am so thankful I got to read this important story and will be forever changed, as a result. Thank you Ruth Coker Burks, Netgalley and publisher.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Em__Jay

    ALL THE YOUNG MEN is one of those books that produced so many varied and opposing emotions in me. I cried. I laughed. I was angry. I was in awe of Ruth Coker Burks who single handedly did so much to help an already ostracised group of people that society, and especially their own families, shunned because of their illness. The story is divided between the lives of the AIDs sufferers Burks helps and her own hardship-filled life that I found just as interesting. Both stories are set against the 1980 ALL THE YOUNG MEN is one of those books that produced so many varied and opposing emotions in me. I cried. I laughed. I was angry. I was in awe of Ruth Coker Burks who single handedly did so much to help an already ostracised group of people that society, and especially their own families, shunned because of their illness. The story is divided between the lives of the AIDs sufferers Burks helps and her own hardship-filled life that I found just as interesting. Both stories are set against the 1980s background when the stigma of an HIV or AIDS diagnosis came with prejudice and fear. The story also highlights the hypocrisy of religion and the astonishingly sexist and insincere attitudes prevalent in Arkansas at the time. The writing flows nicely, and is both candid and emotive. I found the book a great snapshot of a time and place. Highly recommended! 4.5 stars Review copy courtesy of Grove Atlantic, Grove Press and Netgalley

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    i didnt fully process the author until halfway through the synopsis. if you know queer modern history, particularly the aids epidemic, you may know about ruth coker burks, but you probably remember her better as the "cemetery angel" - suffice to say, i can't wait to read this i didnt fully process the author until halfway through the synopsis. if you know queer modern history, particularly the aids epidemic, you may know about ruth coker burks, but you probably remember her better as the "cemetery angel" - suffice to say, i can't wait to read this

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katee

    Ruth Coker Burks is in the hospital visiting a friend when she hears someone asking for help behind a curtain.  No one seems to be heading for the cries of help so she pokes her head in.  She discovers a man dying of AIDS in need of assistance.  This is the mid-1980s and medical professionals (really just the general population) are scared that they can get AIDS from coming into contact with someone infected with the virus.  Ruth doesn't care about the risk and helps him by soothing him and help Ruth Coker Burks is in the hospital visiting a friend when she hears someone asking for help behind a curtain.  No one seems to be heading for the cries of help so she pokes her head in.  She discovers a man dying of AIDS in need of assistance.  This is the mid-1980s and medical professionals (really just the general population) are scared that they can get AIDS from coming into contact with someone infected with the virus.  Ruth doesn't care about the risk and helps him by soothing him and helping to keep him nourished until he dies a few days later.  When she learns his family won't help with his burial, she takes it into her own hands to ensure this gentleman has a resting place.  By going to help that man, Ruth started off on a path that will change her life forever and this is the first of several AIDS patients Ruth will help through the 1990s. This is an inspiration memoir that talks about how we need to have more compassion for those around us.  I think that's something that we easily forget in this day and age.  I did have some problems with the book and Ruth's Pollyanna attitude regarding how her community would see her actions.  She seemed shocked that they didn't help AIDS patients with open arms although she was covertly helping them since she knew she would be scrutinized for her actions and when she is scrutinized for those actions she seems shocked too.  Although Ruth had a naive attitude at times, she did some good in her community when others weren't stepping up.   Thank you to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Rating: 3.5 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I had forgotten all about the Aids Epidemic. Kudos to this author for her kindness to these men!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Julia Klarman litwiller

    You know it's a good audiobook read by the author when you are literally tearing up with the author as she reads her story. This woman has had such an amazingly selfless life, it's nice to know people like her exist. You know it's a good audiobook read by the author when you are literally tearing up with the author as she reads her story. This woman has had such an amazingly selfless life, it's nice to know people like her exist.

  13. 5 out of 5

    G L

    I don’t often cry at books but just thinking about this book makes me teary.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kasia

    I am very interested in this topic but while I found the service this author did admirable, this book seemed pretty shallow and the lack of insight made it seem repetitive. I wanted more substance about the men she helped.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This is a story you will not soon forget. The book, and the story of Ruth Coker Burks, begins in a hospital where she is helping to care for a friend going through treatment for cancer. When Ruth notices a “marked” door to a patient’s room, and sees a group of nurses squabbling over who has to care for this “dangerous” patient, she goes in herself. The patient she finds is alone, fragile and dying of AIDS. While I have lived a very sheltered life, so many things about this book rang true for me: This is a story you will not soon forget. The book, and the story of Ruth Coker Burks, begins in a hospital where she is helping to care for a friend going through treatment for cancer. When Ruth notices a “marked” door to a patient’s room, and sees a group of nurses squabbling over who has to care for this “dangerous” patient, she goes in herself. The patient she finds is alone, fragile and dying of AIDS. While I have lived a very sheltered life, so many things about this book rang true for me: the value of simply holding someone’s hand, how to stand up to bullies and fear and ignorance and hate, acting on the desire to love someone that everyone else sees as unloveable, and the incredible power of tenacity and courage. I tucked away a precious little notion, so that someday, if I find myself in a similar situation, I can be more like Ruth. Coker Burks gives a first-person account of being on the front lines of the AIDS crisis in Arkansas from during the 1980’s and ‘90’s. The story is accessible and understandable, and reads like a conversation with Ruth over coffee. It has taken me years to shed some of the learned ignorance and disapproval I personally felt for people who were different from me, and particularly those in the LGBTQ community. I don’t say that proudly, and I hope I am setting a better example for my children. There was no real reasoning behind those feelings or attitudes, other than the example set for me by other adults in my life, and it pains me. I so appreciate this book for giving me another opportunity to examine some of my own biases, and “meet” the friends of Coker Burks, who were just humans wanting to be loved, and in that way, just like me. The fifth star of my reviews only go to books where I have to stop more than once and research something mentioned in the story — and for All the Young Men, it happened frequently! I read an advanced copy, but I hope the book that comes out in December will include pictures (I really want to see the dress Ruth wears to the Inaugural Ball!). For all of its faults, Hot Springs, Arkansas sounds like a beautiful place, and I have already been looking up places to stay! In other arenas, I have heard gay men of a certain age mention that all of their friends are gone due to AIDS, but it took this book to really give me insight to the horror that people really experienced. Bravo! Bravo, Ruth!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kerr

    Easily the best book I've read this year. It's 1986 in Arkansas, and a young single mother with the highly appropriate name of Ruth visits her friend in hospital. While there, she witnesses hospital staff drawing straws to see who has to go in and and nurse the man behind the biohazard door. It's an AIDS patient and the staff want nothing to do with him. Ruth crosses the threshold and enters a portal to an alternate world. Gay men are getting sick and returning "home" to the South, only to find Easily the best book I've read this year. It's 1986 in Arkansas, and a young single mother with the highly appropriate name of Ruth visits her friend in hospital. While there, she witnesses hospital staff drawing straws to see who has to go in and and nurse the man behind the biohazard door. It's an AIDS patient and the staff want nothing to do with him. Ruth crosses the threshold and enters a portal to an alternate world. Gay men are getting sick and returning "home" to the South, only to find their families still want nothing to do with them. She takes up their cause, nursing them herself, learning as much as she can about the disease, finding housing, turning her pantry into a pharmacy, and navigating a medical and social work system that would just as soon turn its back on these desperately ill men. On the surface, Ms Burks is not the most well-equipped person to be the sole resource for a growing body of seriously ill people, but she is a fierce and savvy Southern woman who knows the rules of her society--and how to break them. It's as if Erin Brockovich has decided to take on the hypocrisy of the good Christian folks (not to mention the medical establishment) instead of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. This is a gripping memoir that illustrates how one person can make an enormous difference in the world. Don't miss this book, but don't read it without a box of kleenex nearby.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This is the most inspirational thing I read in this whole awful year! Ruth Coker Burks was a young single mother in 1980’s Hot Springs who stumbled into AIDS activism by accident: while visiting a friend in the hospital, she comforted a man who mistook her for his mother in his last moments. From there, she quickly became an unofficial hospital liaison for other AIDS patients, because doctors and nurses did not want to care for them, and word spread that she would help. This involved not only ar This is the most inspirational thing I read in this whole awful year! Ruth Coker Burks was a young single mother in 1980’s Hot Springs who stumbled into AIDS activism by accident: while visiting a friend in the hospital, she comforted a man who mistook her for his mother in his last moments. From there, she quickly became an unofficial hospital liaison for other AIDS patients, because doctors and nurses did not want to care for them, and word spread that she would help. This involved not only arranging cremations with unwilling funeral directors, but covertly burying people in her family cemetery. She also filled out paperwork for housing assistance, dumpster dived at local grocery stores to make meals to deliver, interceded with medical staff and families when needed, and gave out safe sex information at drag shows. The most amazing thing about this book to me was its portrayal of the nuts and bolts of activism and friendship. Do you see people around you who need help? Here is how you help them and become their friend in the process.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris breeh

    Wow.. This book was so powerful and emotional i have never cried at any books but this one made me cry at the end. Ruth coker burks helped so many people with AIDS when other people turned a blind eye to them and rejected them health care etc some of the stuff i read about was so sad in this book. This book touches down and educates people on the HIV stigma and all the homophobia that went on in arkansas during the aids crisis and still till this day i assume.. It touches down on religion and how so Wow.. This book was so powerful and emotional i have never cried at any books but this one made me cry at the end. Ruth coker burks helped so many people with AIDS when other people turned a blind eye to them and rejected them health care etc some of the stuff i read about was so sad in this book. This book touches down and educates people on the HIV stigma and all the homophobia that went on in arkansas during the aids crisis and still till this day i assume.. It touches down on religion and how some people use religion to be so hateful.. Ruth coker burks is such an amazing woman for doing what she did for HIV/AIDS during the crisis and in general the stories she shared of these gay men were so powerful and the last few chapters about Billy honestly tore me apart.. Im so happy i got to read this ARC and it was very informative and seeing how far we have come on this issue gives me hope for the future. Thank you netgalley <3

  19. 4 out of 5

    Annika Warrick

    One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The writing is superb, I felt like I was sharing a drink with Ruth while she told me about her guys and all the grief and sorrow and incredible joy that came with taking care of them. I’m 25 and I grew up here in Little Rock, and there’s something about this book that holds truth for me. I feel like I’m finally beginning to see the history of my community. The people who were brave enough to be who they were so that I can be who I am now. I cried, One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The writing is superb, I felt like I was sharing a drink with Ruth while she told me about her guys and all the grief and sorrow and incredible joy that came with taking care of them. I’m 25 and I grew up here in Little Rock, and there’s something about this book that holds truth for me. I feel like I’m finally beginning to see the history of my community. The people who were brave enough to be who they were so that I can be who I am now. I cried, I laughed out loud, I grieved, I loved. Every word of this book is worth reading and rereading. I don’t know how to thank Ruth because I finished this book, in the middle of my own pandemic, and I felt like I was one of her guys too. Taken care of, told that I was not alone in these feelings of queerness and ostracization by someone who understood it. Anyway I could spend weeks writing this review so I’ll just leave it there.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christine (Queen of Books)

    Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for a free e-arc of this title for review. What would you do, if you were in the hospital visiting a friend, and you saw a door covered in a blood-red tarp adorned with a BIOHAZARD sign? Just walk on by, right? What if you heard a plaintive, "help" coming from inside the room? Would you go in there? Would you hold his hand? Ruthie did. Then, after he died, she took his ashes and buried them in her family plot. At night, because if word got out that she had Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for a free e-arc of this title for review. What would you do, if you were in the hospital visiting a friend, and you saw a door covered in a blood-red tarp adorned with a BIOHAZARD sign? Just walk on by, right? What if you heard a plaintive, "help" coming from inside the room? Would you go in there? Would you hold his hand? Ruthie did. Then, after he died, she took his ashes and buried them in her family plot. At night, because if word got out that she had buried an AIDS patient (in Arkansas in 1986), she might have lost custody of her daughter. After that, she just... kept providing care. Cooking for others despite barely being able to make ends meet. Helping them get medical care. Respecting their final wishes. Later, her efforts would grow to include safer sex education. (Not to mention letters to Governor Bill Clinton, who she knew from growing up - she wanted him to know what she was seeing. And he later brought that knowledge to the White House.) It's hard to describe the impact this one woman had - she just did so much. All the Young Men is a powerfully affecting memoir. The authors neither shy away from reality, nor veer into the territory of "tragedy porn." Perhaps most stirring is the belief that there was no one behind Ruth - if she didn't keep helping, there was no one else waiting in the wings to step up. But instead of a burden, she saw her work as an "honor."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Perri Lumish

    Truly finding difficulty coming up with the words to review this one. To say that I am moved after reading this doesn't remotely encompass all that I feel. As a single mother at 26, this woman put everything on the line to help others who had no hope, no chance, nowhere to turn while juggling the many hardships she faced in her own life. This book is one that I think everyone should read - a true lesson in courage, compassion, faith and kindness above all. A restoration of faith in humanity. Ruth Truly finding difficulty coming up with the words to review this one. To say that I am moved after reading this doesn't remotely encompass all that I feel. As a single mother at 26, this woman put everything on the line to help others who had no hope, no chance, nowhere to turn while juggling the many hardships she faced in her own life. This book is one that I think everyone should read - a true lesson in courage, compassion, faith and kindness above all. A restoration of faith in humanity. Ruth is an absolute inspiration, and one of the most selfless women I have ever had the pleasure of learning from and reading about.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Ruth Coker Burks is an angel among humans. Period. She deserves to have her story told and celebrated. (And for all the readers who think this book is too centered on her rather than the men she helped, what you want is called trauma porn. The men she helped suffered enough indignity in life than to be fodder for someone's entitled "curiosity" in death. Let them rest in peace and power and go read some fanfic.) Ruth Coker Burks is an angel among humans. Period. She deserves to have her story told and celebrated. (And for all the readers who think this book is too centered on her rather than the men she helped, what you want is called trauma porn. The men she helped suffered enough indignity in life than to be fodder for someone's entitled "curiosity" in death. Let them rest in peace and power and go read some fanfic.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    vicki honeyman

    This is an incredibly moving and enlightening memoir honoring the life of Ruth Coker Burks, who dedicated herself to recognizing and caring for AIDS-inflicted men who, left utterly alone, literally battled for their lives during the heinous and ignorant time in America when AIDS patients were viewed as having the cooties. Ms. Burks is not a household name in the history of AIDS, but she should be — her altruistic advocacy led her to advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sage

    This was such a stunning, engaging, heartbreaking, devastating, at times, hopeful, read, about chosen family and the power of just one person to make a difference. Ruth is an incredible person, and I am in awe of her strength, determination, empathy and heart. This was a beautiful memoir, and I definitely teared up while reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    An Amazing Read I lived in New York when AIDS began. However, I grew up in the South and knew many of the people discussed in this book. I also knew the legend of Ruth Coker Burks. I am forever grateful for showing compassion when everyone else looked away. She brought love a dignity when we needed it most. God bless you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Farr

    A heartbreaking memoir that looks at the angelic work of Ruth Coker Burks and the tireless work she did during the 1980-90s AIDS health crisis.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Such a good read. Really inspiring to read about the work/education Ruth did and the boundaries she pushed to get help for those suffering with AIDS. It seems crazy now to think people with HIV and AIDS were treated the way they were, and that it was completely the norm to disown, shun and talk poorly of those suffering. Ruth’s memoir reminded me of a cross between Dallas Buyers Club and Erin Brockovich. I loved reading about her perspective on what these men went through and the families they c Such a good read. Really inspiring to read about the work/education Ruth did and the boundaries she pushed to get help for those suffering with AIDS. It seems crazy now to think people with HIV and AIDS were treated the way they were, and that it was completely the norm to disown, shun and talk poorly of those suffering. Ruth’s memoir reminded me of a cross between Dallas Buyers Club and Erin Brockovich. I loved reading about her perspective on what these men went through and the families they chose, not the ones they were born into. I would highly suggest reading the book vs listening on audio. While the story is great, Ruth is defiantly not a the most engaging narrator. 😴

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jill Reads

    Ruth Coker Burks was just 26-years-old when she found her life’s mission: to care for HIV and AIDS patients. Many of whom she barely knew, and didn’t even know at all. She was there for those who she called “my guys” in every way possible when no one else was. She educated them, fed them, medicated them, tested them, transported them, nurtured them and buried them. “I was tired of waiting for them to die. I was actually trying to help them live instead.” A single mom, who was barely making ends mee Ruth Coker Burks was just 26-years-old when she found her life’s mission: to care for HIV and AIDS patients. Many of whom she barely knew, and didn’t even know at all. She was there for those who she called “my guys” in every way possible when no one else was. She educated them, fed them, medicated them, tested them, transported them, nurtured them and buried them. “I was tired of waiting for them to die. I was actually trying to help them live instead.” A single mom, who was barely making ends meet on her own, became a surrogate family member to those who found her name and phone number by word of mouth. When they were shunned by their families—and even their doctors—she was there for all the young men who were left behind. Angel. Antonio. Carlos. Luke. Todd. Jerry. Douglas. John. Danny. Neil. Marc. Tim. Jim. And Billy. Plus, many more. This is a deeply emotional and powerful memoir that paints a true picture of life in the past 30 years, when having HIV and AIDs was so taboo that no one would go near you. Ruth Coker Burks is a saint for giving her life to those who needed her care. Special thanks to Grove Atlantic who gave me an advanced copy of “All The Young Men,” via NetGalley, in exchange for my review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Noelle

    I’m not sure how to rate this just yet. It took me a while to finish since it wasn’t a book where I simply couldn’t put down; however, I’m thankful for this book since it enabled me to hear her story and the work she did. She is remarkable and you could feel her lovely, tenacious spirit through the writing.... It was just a few chapters at a time type of book is all.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Abbie Naylor

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. All the Young Men is a beautifully written memoir about a subject I didn’t know a huge amount about prior to reading it, however it taught me so much in 300 pages and I’ll be eternally grateful it came into my life. I am now aware of the horrific stigma around AIDS patients which Ruth raised awareness of, showing the great self-sacrifice of herself and her daughter, even if she wasn’t aware of this at the time. There were many especially poignant scenes with the patients’ families at the beginni All the Young Men is a beautifully written memoir about a subject I didn’t know a huge amount about prior to reading it, however it taught me so much in 300 pages and I’ll be eternally grateful it came into my life. I am now aware of the horrific stigma around AIDS patients which Ruth raised awareness of, showing the great self-sacrifice of herself and her daughter, even if she wasn’t aware of this at the time. There were many especially poignant scenes with the patients’ families at the beginning, not even wanting to know them which were immediately heartbreaking to read. I loved the scenes in Our House with the drag queens and this demonstration of the importance of a safe space to express yourself when you are facing so much aversion. The drag queens generally because such an important element of the book and I loved each one of them, especially when hearing about their shows. I’m not particularly religious myself, however I did really enjoy the religious elements of the book with Ruth going and burying each man who died in a spiritual, respectful manner. The way the church interacted with and treated Ruth was shocking and like she mentions herself, against the basic teachings of the bible, however it was wonderful that she still managed to keep her faith throughout and how this helped her I found it so upsetting and unfair how much hurt and loss Ruth went through in her life, from her parents very young to her ex-husband, yet amazing and surprising to see her pull through this to help thousands more people either directly or just by raising more awareness. Ruth sounds like an incredible and inspirational woman who just puts people first regardless of the situation, which is especially admirable. The deaths of Tim and Jim really affected me when reading the book. It was heartbreaking knowing how close not only Ruth, but also Allison had grown to them, and how there was a huge amount of family so close by but Ruth was the only one around to help. The end of the chapter where they were buried was one of my favourites to read as it was so poignant, and really showed how attitudes weren’t the same among everyone and how their neighbours really cared so much and gave as much as they could at the burial despite not having anything themselves. I also really fell in love with Billy and Paul’s relationship and felt heartbroken yet again when Billy’s health began really declining but so much happiness at the amount of people who loved him and were willing to help out. The scene where he did his final drag performance was wonderful and I liked how there was a sense of finality to really show appreciation for him. One thing that stuck out to me throughout, even to the very end, was the stigma surrounding patients in hospital, apart from the one or two doctors and nurses mentioned. This is the one place that may actually be able to provide real medical help but they were unwilling to even make patients comfortable when they were in their last few days or hours. It made me all the more glad for Ruth and others’ work raising awareness to help reduce this stigma and horrible treatment. I felt such a bittersweet nostalgia, in the epilogue as Ruth recalled her past and the people she had lost, especially Billy. If nothing else, this proves to me how wonderful a writer Ruth is, and her incredible ability to recount the people she met in such detail that you grow to love them like she did. This was such an amazing book and I feel that everyone should read it if they get a chance. A solid 5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley for very kindly sending me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.