All the Young Men

All the Young Men

In 1986, 26-year old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices that the door to one of the hospital rooms is painted red. She witnesses nurses drawing straws to see who would tend to the patient inside, all of them reluctant to enter the room. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters the quarantined space and immediately begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. Before she can even process what she's done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men afflicted by AIDS, and is called upon to nurse them. As she forges deep friendships with the men she helps, she works tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, even searching for funeral homes willing to take their bodies - often in the middle of the night. She cooks meals for tens of people out of discarded food found in the dumpsters behind supermarkets, stores rare medications for her most urgent patients, teaches sex-ed to drag queens after hours at secret bars, and becomes a beacon of hope to an otherwise spurned group of ailing gay men on the fringes of a deeply conservative state.

Throughout the years, Ruth defies local pastors and nurses to help the men she cares for: Paul and Billy, Angel, Chip, Todd and Luke. Emboldened by the weight of their collective pain, she fervently advocates for their safety and visibility, ultimately advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis.

This deeply moving and elegiac memoir honors the extraordinary life of Ruth Coker Burks and the beloved men who fought valiantly for their lives with AIDS during a most hostile and misinformed time in America.

Title:All the Young Men
ISBN:9780802157249
Format Type:

    All the Young Men Reviews

  • Angela M

    I don’t read very many memoirs, but when I do, I need them to be about extraordinary people and I was not disappointed. Right from the start, we see the fear that people had of those with AIDS,the f...

  • Diane S ?

    A while back I read the fictional account of the AIDS crisis, The Great Believers, which made a huge impression. I personally do not know anyone who has died from this, but I did have a male friend in...

  • Cheri

    Ruth Coker Burks was a young single mom living in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the spring of 1986 along with her young daughter, a daughter whose father was in the picture on weekends until a car accident...

  • Chrissie

    All the Young Men: A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South by Ruth Coker Burks is co-authored by Kevin Carr O'Leary.The book’s subtitle states exactly what the book concerns....

  • Neale

    Three nurses draw straws to see who must attend to the patient in the room with the red tarp covering the door. The patient, or whatever lies behind that door must pose a danger to the nurses because ...

  • Laura

    I have thought long and hard about what to say about this book, and whatever I come up with doesn’t seem to do it justice. This is a book that will shake you to your very core, restore your faith in...

  • Sharon Metcalf

    As recently as last week I became aware of this memoir when I read a trusted friends five star review of it. It sounded inspiring and Angela's words describing All The Young Men. A Memoir of Love, AI...

  • Ed

    This is a top-notch feel-good read about one of the early champions for HIV/AIDS patients living in small-town Arkansas. Her tenacity, resourcefulness, and compassion left me amazed. She has a lot of ...

  • Tom Mooney

    Ruth Coker Burks is an inspirational woman whose bravery in the face of a terrifying epidemic is something we could all learn a great deal from right now. The lengths she went to in order to afford sw...

  • Stephanie

    Sometimes when you browse around on NetGalley, you find a book that calls out to you and that you know you have to read, whether you get approved for it or not, and fortunately, I was lucky enough to ...