All the Young Men by Ruth Coker Burks is Hay Festival Book of the Month for January, continuing the Festival's campaign to celebrate and ignite conversation around new books that have particular resonance for us right now.
A gripping and triumphant tale of human compassion, All the Young Men is the true story of a young, single mother who finds herself driven to the forefront of the AIDS crisis and who risks everything to give victims back their humanity.
In 1986, 26-year-old Ruth Corker Burks visited a friend in hospital when she noticed that the door to one of the patient’s rooms is painted red. The nurses were reluctant to enter, drawing straws to decide who will tend to the sick person inside. Out of impulse, Ruth herself entered the quarantined space and begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. And in doing so, Ruth’s own life changes forever.
Ruth goes from being an ordinary young mother in Hot Springs, Arkansas to an accidental activist, the only person willing to help the young men afflicted by the growing AIDS crisis in her deeply conservative community.
"If I have one message with this book it’s that we all have to care for one another. Today, not just in 1986. I learned more about life from the dying than I ever learned from the living."
Ruth Coker Burks talks to lawyer Philippe Sands in the Festival's free Book of the Month Live Q&A event on Tuesday 26 January at 7pm. Register for the session now.
Hay Festival’s Book of the Month is selected by the festival team in Hay-on-Wye and aims to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Titles are sold in the UK through the festival’s online shop, as well as being available in all good libraries and bookshops.
Find out more about Hay Festival’s Book of the Month here or explore #HayBookOfTheMonth on social.