Readers’ Reviews from Amazon and Goodreads
This book is so important
Amazon Reader, 8 March 2018. Amazon.com
It’s not the first time I read a book that deals with AIDS and HIV, but it’s the first time I read a book where so many different experiences with them are shown.
That’s one of the main things I take away from this book: diversity. This book shines light on how AIDS and HIV do not target a certain group of people, that it can affect anyone. It is based on interviews done to people at a meeting for HIV-positive people. The good thing about that is that we get experiences from people from all over the world, so their experiences have to be different from each other’s. It’s been interesting to see how different cultures react to the same thing and deal with it.
There is something about the fragments that make them even more personal and real: the fact that the authors kept some mistakes that non-native English speakers would make. That showed to me that the texts were not altered to look a certain way, so everything that is written comes from specifically those people. This might be like a weird point to make but, personally, I think that it’s important to keep the essence of the people who are talking about something so personal. Furthermore, those mistakes do not lead to miscommunication, so they are not really that big.
The best part about this book is that every person that is interviewed has had a different experience. Therefore, we see how different people with different backgrounds (culture, education, sexuality, etc.) talk about how they live with knowing they are HIV-positive. Everything that is depicted here is very real: we see doubts, hope, carelessness, etc. We see a full scope of feelings and reactions. We also see that not everyone affected is a young adult, there are children and adults too.
To be honest, one of the most surprising (and amazing) things about this book is that it gives hope to people in that same situation. It validates people’s feelings from being suicidal to wanting to live life fully. Normalizing all those feelings is important to make people feel like what they feel is not wrong. All throughout the pages you can see that there is a message of hope, of resistance, but the thing is that that message is spread through different experiences and it’s not just about facing HIV straight away and not being scared. I don’t really have the words to properly explain how important this is. I just hope more people read it and learn a bit more about the virus.
Brave Voices from the Dark Era of HIV/AIDS
17 October 2017 . Amazon.com
When AIDS first hit the headlines in the early 1980s, there was widespread fear and ignorance. I remember an earnest young fisherman coming up to me on a beach in Sri Lanka in the summer of 1986, asking nervously whether one could catch AIDS from kissing. These days, attitudes to the disease — and to the HIV virus that can lead to it — have changed considerably, partly because of more widespread scientific knowledge but largely because those who can access antiretroviral drugs (dispensed free to infected men and women in many countries) can often live a normal life. AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence.
So the context in which Ann Richardson has reissued her book of testimonies from people living with (or dying from) HIV/AIDS has changed considerably over the two decades since she and her (now deceased) collaborator, Dietmar Bolle, first produced it. Nonetheless, there is a freshness and an immediacy in many of the spoken and written interviews with people of both genders, of different ages and from different cultures. The book is arranged thematically, covering major aspects of how people came to terms with their condition, who they told and how and the sort of support networks they developed — or their experiences of rejection and prejudice. The stories are often moving, even tear-inducing, and also occasionally funny. Yes, HIV/AIDS before drug therapy was a terrible plague, which particularly hit Western gay men and heterosexual Africans and their children. But what comes over most strongly from many of the people who feature in this important book is their fortitude, in some cases their stoicism, and often intimations of real love.
An Incredibly Important Read
Cassidy 9 November 2017. Amazon.co.uk
When Wise Before Their Time was first published in 1992, it served two purposes – to educate people on what life was like for the heartbreakingly large number of young people (and God, they were young) who were living with HIV and AIDS around the world, to try and beat the stigma and combat false information; and to directly speak to people who had the disease and who were feeling its often isolating and alienating consequences. I was born in 1995 and therefore missed out on a majority the horrors of the pandemic, but as Ann Richardson states in the foreword, my generation and the ones that come after it, are the reason why this book needs to be republished – so that people do not forget the horrors and fears of the past and, in some places in the world, the present; that we remain educated and continue to stand in solidarity with people who are HIV-positive and those living with AIDS.
I suppose I find some comfort in how much has changed in just my lifetime, a mere twenty years although to some it must feel like a millennia – HIV screenings have become commonplace with pre- and post-exposure drugs becoming far more readily available; the creation of needle exchange programmes in many countries around the world; and, more people than ever are engaged in an open and honest discussion about all aspects of the disease. Also, at least in my part of the world, living with HIV/AIDS is no longer seen as a negative on someone’s character and it is no longer solely talked about in hushed voices behind closed doors, moving into classrooms, university campuses and many other social arenas.
And I think that we have every person involved in the creation of this book to thank for a small part of that being made possible.
Each one of the voices in Wise Before Their Time is powerful and sobering. They show the everyday realities of living with a disease that people, including doctors as their tales repeatedly show, knew virtually nothing about. They talk honestly and incredibly openly about all aspects of the experience of living with HIV/AIDS – from how they got their diagnosis, to confront their own mortality, to telling friends and family members, to their hopes for the future. Expanding on the latter, there is a definite sense of hope that is forges the undercurrent for the entirety of the interviews as, no matter how long the person had had the disease or what part of the world they lived in, they refused to give up, every single one of them. And that is surely, the true definition of inspiring.
Read it to understand beauty of life
Bookstogo, 4 December 2017. Amazon.com
It was a sad book, something I wouldn’t dare to re-read but glad anyways that I have read it. I remember reading ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver and having the same feelings; as a parent, the book was so hard for me to read and yet, I was awfully glad I had read it. Wise Before Their Time is totally different in context from Lionel Shriver’s. It is a difficult book to read not as a parent but as a sensitive person.
The first edition was published in the time when AIDS was still considered a tabooed subject; being tested HIV Positive was an automatic death sentence and a social stigma; no one wanted to get associated with HIV Positive people. To read the book at the time it was published for the first time would have been, an altogether, a different experience. Things today have changed so much. The patients can talk about it openly. Access to antiretroviral drugs has become easier. HIV Positive people can live a better, healthier and a normal life. So in that context, this second edition of Wise Before Their Time serves an altogether different purpose: The feelings: what the patients feels, what kind of impact being tested positive makes on them, how they come to term with living with the disease, how the fear of isolation, rejection haunts them?
The following lines from the poem ‘If You Want to Love me’ from the book beautifully sum up all the emotions in a few words:
If you want to love me
Then love me now.
Don’t look for tomorrow
And don’t ask me how.
I can’t give you a guideline
It is your love,
It is you.
Difficult times brings out either the strength or the weakness in a person. The person never stays same. He either becomes bigger or smaller. And it was heartening to learn that most patients after being tested positive came out stronger, wiser, and more mature.
The author, through interviews with patients, has presented an honest, moving picture which touches a reader’s heart. Do read this book. If not for anything else then just to understand and appreciate the beauty of being healthy and being alive!
Engaging and inspirational
Joan C, 30 December 2017. Amazon.co.uk
I believe it’s so important to remember the people behind their diagnosis. This book takes you there. Dietmar was so passionate to spread the word. It was a privilege to know & work with him. Thank you.
There are too few books like this
Anastasia, 9 January 2018. Amazon.com.
This book describes unimaginable amount of ignorance, fear and pain. Men, women and children, small babies dying of a mysterious disease and no one knows what it is and no one has the cure for it.
“A giant ‘Infection’ was written above her name. She was asked to use a separate toilet from the other women, which had a red ‘Control of infection’ notice on it. She was miserable, frightened and scared for her children. I realised what was happening and complained.The attitude was ‘Oh, we know HIV isn’t contagious, but we must follow our old guidelines.'”― Ann Richardson, Wise Before Their Time
There was a trilogy I read some time ago called Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar (Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves). I think the title of the book is enough to describe what the trilogy is about. And my point is that there are too few book like this. In Wise Before Their Time, there’s a story of mother and her young daughter Daisy. She was just learning to speak. A little bit late in walking. Then when she is sixteen months old, she stops walking.
My doctor had to inform the funeral directors that she’d died of an infectious disease. So when they came, they came in these suits and gloved. They just wrapped her in a plastic bag and took her away. And, well, it just was too much for me. I couldn’t cope, I just had to run out of the room.” ― Ann Richardson, Wise Before Their Time”
A book full of incredibly brave people writing their heartbreaking stories on what it was like to live with HIV and AIDS. I warmly recommend this for everyone.
Thank you BooksGoSocial and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A historically and culturally invaluable book!
Ken Johnson, 8 January 2018. Amazon.com.
This book’s intrinsic historical and cultural value is invaluable. Essentially a revision of a previous edition, it provides insights and historical accounts which would otherwise be lost to time. Simply due to technological advances, we have changed much as a society… therefore we have also forgotten much. These historic interviews are not only rare but also remarkably candid for their era. At times, the stories were alarming. No matter your feelings and beliefs on this disease, you owe it to yourself to read this book!
NOTE: A copy was provided to me in return for a fair and honest review.
PeaceLoveHope, 11 January 2018. Amazon.com
Wise Before Their Time is an enlightening compilation of individual stories and thoughts from those infected with HIV. Many/most of these accounts are from the early era of AIDS and it saddened me to see how fellow humans treated one another. I was particularly disturbed by the story about a baby dying from the disease. Though there are also messages of love and hope throughout, I feel the book is a good educational tool about the stigma of the virus when not much was understood about it. An important read.
Heidi Lynn, 10 March 2018. Amazon.com
First, I want to thank Ann Richardson Dietmar Bolle with a Foreword by Sir Ian McKellen for providing me with this book so I may provide you with this review.
Wise Before Their Time People With AIDS and HIV Talk about Their Lives by Ann Richardson a very compassionate look at the lives and daily struggles of people living with HIV and AIDS. A book that you will definitely need your tissues for. A book that will show you that living with HIV and AIDS is not an easy one and each individual is very courageous for going through this battle. You will get a better understanding of the personal and clinical side of this disease.
Throughout this book you will read stories of individuals whom have HIV and AIDS. Each story will touch your hearts in different ways. Many will tell you how they found out they got the disease, how they told their families, what life is like for them now, etc. You will learn that it is not just a gay disease and that even babies can get this. After reading these stories you will never look the same at this disease the same way again.
Words could not express how my heart ached Ann Richardson whom lost her dear friend and co-author of this book Dietmar Bolle to AIDS. It would have been 25 years since his passing. Dietmar had a heart of gold, a passion for helping people and making a difference in their lives. In all of his achievements he accomplished he truly changed these people’s lives for the better. He was truly an incredible man that I would have loved to have the honor to meet. Dietmar Bolle thank you for everything you did for the AIDS/HIV community. Mark from Canada mentioned something in this book that I loved “Many express a love of being alive and the need not to take things for granted.” “In the life, I am very much an observer. I like to be looking, the people, the things. I have a marvellous relationship with one of my nephews, I love him very much. And to see him growing each day, it is a marvellous for me.”
Heart-breaking tales told by sufferers in the early days of HIV?AIDS
MegaReader, 19 January 2018. Amazon.co.uk
‘Wise Before Their Time’ was first published in 1992 and focuses on the everyday lives of people suffering with HIV/AIDS. Victims talk about how they found out about their disease, their thoughts and feelings at the time of diagnosis, and the effect the HIV diagnosis had on their immediate families.
Reading it over 25 years later it’s plain to see how ignorant the public were at that time regarding not only HIV/AIDS, but also how victims of the disease were treated. There are heartbreaking stories of people losing their livelihoods once they admit they are HIV positive. However, the book is not all doom and gloom – there are many inspirational stories here from sufferers who feel very well and enjoy living life to the full.
Of course these days, treatment options have increased the lifespan for the majority of HIV sufferers, and being HIV positive is not necessarily the death sentence it once was. AIDS victims were always in the news back in 1992, but a quarter of a century later it’s hardly mentioned at all.
Recommended for those who would like to delve a little bit into the early days of HIV/AIDS.
Engaging and inspirational
Edwin C, 30 December 2017. Amazon.co.uk
I believe it’s so important to remember the people behind their diagnosis. This book takes you there. Dietmar was so passionate to spread the word. It was a privilege to know & work with him. Thankyou
An appealing book about people with AIDS
12 October 2017. Amazon.com
Books about AIDS are usually full of medical mumbo jumbo. But “Wise Before Their Time” is different. It’s a book of personal stories told to the author by real people. People of all colors and creeds and sexual persuasions who have AIDS. The book is both moving and informative. You are saddened by most of the tales. But at the same time, you learn that for the most part, after their diagnosis and treatment, the AIDS afflicted are grateful. Of course they are sorry to have AIDS. But they have all learned to love life more than ever before. This book is not only touching, it’s well crafted and will shed new light on AIDS for readers everywhere.