Where Honesty Never Ends.
Genre: Short stories, non-fiction, HIV/AIDS Awareness
Greetings everyone! The Review Board here to share our thoughts on Smiling in the Storm: 20 Moving Stories of AIDS Patients who Defied the Disease, edited by James E. Mutumba. First up, Casey Prism:
Smiling in the Storm is a compilation of short stories from people in Uganda that have succumbed to the disease perhaps in body but not in spirit. The work is compiled and edited by James E. Mutumba and many also have been translated by him as well.
Little is lost in translation (as is sometimes the case when reading a work from a different culture). I found that Mr. Mutumba did a successful job of easing this transition for the reader.
The messages throughout the book are clear. To defy the loss of will and to have good faith: “…but suffice it to say that a self-controlled life, especially a spiritually regenerate life is the most potent protection against AIDS.”
This Christian inspirational work is (as it’s aimed to be) a wonderful tool for spreading awareness and I surely hope that it encourages others to become more aware of the situation worldwide.
I give Smiling in the Storm: 20 Moving Stories of AIDS patients who Defied the Disease 8 out of 10 TRB stars.
With this book, edited by James E. Mutumba, I had to approach it a bit differently. First, because it dealt with accounts from twenty different individuals sharing their battle with AIDS. I definitely commend the bravery it must have taken to share their tribulations to assist and help others. Second, because of the common thread that joins these stories outside of the illness—the power of accepting Jesus Christ into one’s life to smile, not only in the storm, but through the storm.
Taking my own philosophy about religion out of the equation, this collection is a demonstration to the following:
All of the accounts really tugged at my heart. The organizations assisting the people were (and are) indeed God sends. It was very unfortunate to hear that funding was discontinued for one of them. I am hopeful that other groups will step in its place to provide similar services as the former.
Now looking at the visual composition of the book, there were things I felt needed improving. Some are more preference while others I feel should be implemented for ease of the read.
(1) I would have preferred in the table of contents that a symbol guide have been used as opposed to typing out “pseudonym”, “true name” and “forename”. Something similar to this:
Anything that didn’t have those variations of symbols next to it, the reader could assume that the actual full name was being used since the editor did indicate previously that not all people would be using their actual names in the accounts. For me, it would have made the appearance a bit cleaner.
(2) Underneath the beginning of each chapter, I would have liked the person’s name and date of testimony at the start rather than the end. Since all accounts are in first person, I could quickly match a name to the narrator if all is in the front. Like this:
How My Calamity Was Eased
Lydia (August 1993)
(3) In a few spots, the phrasing was a bit awkward. Yet perhaps most of it could be dismissed as being translated from one language to another. For instance,
“…One of our women staff is down with AIDS and…” (from page 10)
In American slang, “is down with” means “in agreement” or “in support”. Yet, what the person is really trying to say is this:
“One of our women staff is (“infected”, “sick”, “suffering”) with AIDS and…” (No ellipses needed at the beginning of the sentence as well.)
(4) In spots, there was some punctuation misplaced (page 16, 17, 23 for starters), and some words here and there that were not needed (like “a wrong timing” instead of “wrong timing”). They didn’t fully detract from the read but they were noticeable enough to mention.
“Being a business woman trading between Uganda and Zaire*, she tricked me and my three brothers by inviting us to become her business partners, but on condition that we took the HIV test.”
Later in the text, on the next page, was the footnote: *Former Zaire is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo—editor”
This was placed right smack dab in the middle of this sentence: “He looked at me without winking and said, “Your blood has been found to be reactive.”
To avoid interruption of reader flow and rhythm, I would like to present these two solutions:
(A) To put this side note near the bottom of the page where it is being mentioned. The reference to Zaire was mentioned on page 26 of the copy I received from the author. The editor’s note should have been mentioned on the exact same page just above the number 26.
* Editor’s Note: Zaire is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo. (The word “former” isn’t needed when the word “now” is mentioned to signify transition or a new name.)
(2) Or, if one didn’t want to go through the trouble to place it at the bottom, place the Editor’s Note in parenthesis ( ) right after the statement:
“Being a business woman trading between Uganda and Zaire*, she tricked me and my three brothers by inviting us to become her business partners, but on condition that we took the HIV test.” (*Editor’s Note: Zaire is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo.)
(6) The emphasis of important points through bold and highlights: This point is more for style than anything. During points where certain phrases were placed within in the narratives, I think they should have been made bold at that first moment of statement, as opposed to being repeated, put in bold and highlighted. It detracts from the novel like readability of the work.
Or, if the editor wanted to put this together in a self help type of construct, it would have been nice to put the takeaways (the parts he really felt needed highlighting) towards the end of each story. Kind of like “The moral of the story is…” type of setting. I didn’t like them being repeated while I was trying to soak in each person’s struggle.
There is no needed for any adding and dividing by two, since Casey and I are in accord with our rating:
Visual hiccups aside, I am glad James E. Mutumba shared these heartwarming stories and hope in the future he will put together even more collections that outline other aspects of the AIDS epidemic.
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