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White & Cunningham : Ryan White


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Ryan White (1971-1990) was a courageous young man whose autobiography, Ryan White: My Own Story, recounts his HIV/AIDS diagnosis at age 13 and his fight against AIDS-related discrimination in his Indiana community. White and his mother, Jeanne White-Ginder, gained national attention and became the face of public education about HIV/AIDS when they rallied for his right to attend school. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is the biggest federal program dedicated explicitly to providing HIV treatment and care services to people with HIV/AIDS. Ann Marie Cunningham is the co-author of the bestseller, Ryan White: My Own Story, about the Indiana teen with AIDS who was barred from school, sued for the right to return, and won. Cunningham is a veteran science writer and producer. She is a regular correspondent for Women's eNews and producer of the Long Island Sound Science Festival. She is based in New York. Jeanne White-Ginder is the mother of Ryan White, a courageous young man whose autobiography, Ryan White: My Own Story, recounts his HIV/AIDS diagnosis at age 13 and his fight against AIDS-related discrimination in his Indiana community. She catapulted from obscurity to being a media regular when Ryan was not allowed to return to school in their Indiana town. After her son's death, she continued her son's legacy of education and empathy by working on getting his book--written by him for other children--published. She wrote the afterword for the book and later had a bill passed that called for federal funding of AIDS education, research, and medical care in her son's name.


Although Ryan White was born with hemophilia, the boy and his family were determined that he live as normal a life as possible. But, given contaminated blood in a transfusion, Ryan contracted AIDS. Most Americans are familiar with the ensuing headline-making facts: his school barred his attendance, neighbors and former friends shunned him and his family. Moving from Kokomo, Ind., to friendlier Cicero, Ryan struggled for the right to be educated and treated like any other kid even as he fought a daily battle against AIDS and hemophilia. Until his death in April 1990, Ryan was an eloquent spokesperson for all AIDS patients. This understated, affecting first-person account is no mere saccharine tearjerker about a ``victim.'' Early on, Ryan resolved to be the ``first kid with AIDS to speak out, fight back--and win.'' Hearing Ryan's often strong, sometimes hurting, always faith-filled voice in these pages, readers will know that his hopeful, heroic spirit did ultimately triumph. Illustrated with photographs, the work includes an epilogue on Ryan's final illness and funeral, tributes from friends Elton John and Michael Jackson, Ryan's testimony before the President's Commission on AIDS, answers to frequently asked questions and a final section on AIDS information resources. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Gr 6 Up-- The terrible suffering and the shining courage of a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from blood meant to sustain him are contending forces in this ``as told to'' account. In a natural, often heart-tugging style, White describes his small-city Indiana background, his early health problems, the effects of the AIDS diagnosis when he was 13, and his legal battle to be readmitted to school. Readers will applaud the young man's efforts to live a ``normal'' life and to experience teen enthusiasms and interests. Sadly, his own honesty--which is commendable--and the lapses of taste on Cunningham's part introduce jarring and embarrassing overtones. White's family's infatuation with material things, their obsession with personal appearance, and the preoccupation with celebrities come across as being not only receptive to but also fostering the circus side-show atmosphere that surrounded the boy's illness and death. Cunningham's presumption to relate Ryan's thoughts as he loses his ability to communicate is an outrageous occasion of literary license, and the epilogue wallows in sentimentality with lengthy details of the death watch and the funeral. Numerous well-reproduced black-and-white and full-color photographs of Ryan, his family, and his many friends are interspersed throughout the narrative. Tributes by Elton John and Michael Jackson (which seem superfluous), Ryan's eloquent testimony before the President's Commission on AIDS, a section of questions and answers on AIDS, and a multimedia list of further resources follow the epilogue. Despite its discomfitting aspects, this book will find an audience. --Libby K. White, Schenectady County Public Library, NY

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