Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Faith under Fire: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love

A memoir by LaJoyce Brookshire
Karen Hunter Publishing
Hardcover, $24.00
270 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4165-6645-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

“God has given me the opportunity to reach scores of women, connecting with their spirits to bring understanding to the ‘down low phenomenon. I am amazed at the number of women who have found themselves in the same types of relationships that I had.
For years, I truly felt as if this was only my plight, as if I was the only one whose husband cheated with men… This journey has broadened the scope of my vision of this unbelievable reality.
LaJoyce, like me and the growing number of women who refuse to stand by silently allowing the stigmas and dangers of HIV/AIDS to continue, is sharing her story to take back the control and take back the power that HIV/AIDS has stolen from lives, relationships and families.”
-- Brenda Stone Browder (author of The Survival Guide for Women Living with Men on the Down Low) in The Foreword (pages xxi-xxii)

Everybody knows about the escalating AIDS rate which has been devastating the black community. African-Americans now account for the majority of HIV infections in the U.S., with black women representing over two-thirds of the new diagnoses among females, and black teens over two-thirds of them in their age group.
For this reason, inner city schools all over the country ought to consider adding LaJoyce Brookshire’s Faith under Fire: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love, to their curricula as a precaution. Her eye-opening memoir shows just how easily even a successful professional like her could be duped by a duplicitous brother on the down low and thereby put herself at risk of dying from the preventable disease at an early age.
In LaJoyce’s case, she was very lucky that she learned the truth about her man before she contracted the illness, not that he was inclined to let her on his dirty little secret. Although he already had been HIV+ for about ten years when they met, he courted, married and impregnated her with no intention of revealing why he periodically suffered from bleeding ulcers and array of other maladies.
Only well into their marriage did a bell go off in LaJoyce’s head, after a hospital doctor asked her why her husband refused to allow him to administer an HIV test. Turns out Steven by then had full-blown AIDS, and his monogamous wife was pretty shocked by the carousing, carelessness and sexual preferences of what she had incorrectly assumed to be a straight, homophobic and faithful spouse.
However, there were many warning signs, if she had just been willing to take notice. And she delineates how to makes sure your partner isn’t also on the down low in a helpful chapter about avoiding becoming another statistic. She suggests starting by inquiring whether he’s HIV+, then taking an AIDS test together. And while waiting for the results to come back, she supplies a list of 200 additional probing questions that must be answered honestly and thoroughly before the relationship becomes intimate.
Not exactly my idea of romantic, but I suppose sisters can’t be too careful nowadays, given the spread of AIDS by convicts, by intravenous drug users and by brothers simply too afraid to admit they’re gay or bisexual due to the macho nature of an African-American culture marked by a general intolerance of homosexuality.

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