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We Are All The Same: The Life And Death Of Nkosi Johnson    by Jim Wooten order for
We Are All The Same
by Jim Wooten
Order:  USA  Can
Tantor Audio Books, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

We Are All the Same resonates with the activist within us all to stand up and fight injustice. It is one of those books that leave you sad, hopeful, and ready to act. Jim Wooten gives listeners a reporter's tale that spins a narrative of an individual while paralleling it with larger events in the world. It's an account of the life of Nkosi Johnson, a boy who put a face on the dreadful statistics surrounding AIDS and Africa.

Born to a mother with HIV and predicted to die within a year of birth, Nkosi beat all the odds, surviving eleven years through help, luck, and his own determination. Ultimately, he could not defeat the virus, but he and his caretaker, Gail Johnson, managed to promote awareness about the horrid conditions in Africa to millions of people across the world. Johnson, who adopted Nkosi while running a shelter for people dying of AIDS, was so inspired by the boy that together they reached out to the world and ultimately touched millions. Their efforts made more shelters and funds available to those suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Wooten delivers a wakening dose of reality about the inequalities of the world, and how they create even more injustices. He weaves history and biography so well that no matter where you are taken, you want to know more. He begins by looking at the effects of the Zulu wars and how they directly resulted in the impoverished lives of Nkosi, his grandmother Ruth, and his mother Daphney. In Nkosi's first years during the early 1990s, Wooten provides an interesting constrast between the life of Nkosi Johnson and that of Nelson Mandela. Later on, Nkosi is contextualized side by side with Thabo Mbeki, the South African president notorious for his dubious stance on the AIDS issue.

The narrator, Alan Sklar, delivers the story like the compassionate reporter that the author proves himself to be. Navigating through the facts and anecdotes with a perceptive tone, Sklar seems to imperceptibly know how to keep the listener interested in the material. His gravelly but mellow voice delivers this tale with great subtle emotion that reveals his own compassion for the situation.

We Are All the Same tells a powerful story that should strike a nerve in anyone. It leaves one contemplating priorities. Do you spend five dollars on a café latte or try to make that money matter in someone's life? Do you really need a deluxe entertainment center, or can those funds help cover the cost of a drug that extends the life of a child? Despite the staggering statistics and lives being lost, it took Nkosi's story for much of South Africa and the world to recognize the dire AIDS situation in Africa. Which makes one wonder what other travesties are taking place that the world doesn't recognize because we have not humanized them yet.

Note: This review refers to an unabridged (6 hours, 43 minutes) audiobook narrated by Alan Sklar, available from Tantor Audio, and also from

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