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Summary

'If I have one message with this book it's that we all have to care for one another. Today, not just in 1986. Life is about caring for each other, and I learned more about life from the dying than I ever learned from the living. It's in an elephant ride, it's in those wildflowers dancing on their way to the shared grave of two men in love, and it's in caring for that young man who just needed information without judgement.'

In 1986, 26-year-old Ruth Coker Burks visits a friend in hospital when she notices that the door to one of the patient's rooms is painted red. The nurses are reluctant to enter, drawing straws to decide who will tend to the sick person inside. Out of impulse, Ruth herself enters 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. 

As word spreads in the community that she is the only person willing to help the young men afflicted by the growing AIDS crisis, Ruth goes from being an ordinary young mother to an accidental activist. Forging deep friendships with the men she helps, Ruth works to find them housing and jobs, and then funeral homes willing to take their bodies - often in the middle of the night. She prepares and delivers meals to 'her guys,' supplementing her own income with discarded food found in the dumpsters behind supermarkets. She defies local pastors and the medical community to store rare medications for her most urgent patients and teaches sex education to drag queens after hours at secret bars. 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 and in doing so becomes a beacon of hope to an otherwise spurned group of ailing gay men on the fringes of society. 

Ruth kept her story a secret for years, fearful of repercussions within her deeply conservative community. But at a time when it's more important than ever to stand up for those who can't, Ruth has found the courage to have her voice - and the voices of those who were stigmatised, rejected and abandoned - heard.

©2020 Ruth Coker Burks (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

What listeners say about All the Young Men

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everyone read it

Started to get book anxiety by half way though that I was hearting Ruth tell her story so much that I knew I'd be sad when it finished.
Amazing tale of caring for people amid the stark disdain of the supposed christian folk. That supercilious religious hypocrisy has always fascinated me and this book describes it so well.
What an incredible life Ruthie, I will never forget this lovely book and I will recommend it to everyone.

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  • JE
  • 04-02-21

Exceptional

How do you begin to review the story of a person's life.. This story is brilliantly told and narrated.. Being allowed into the lives of Ruth's guys has been an amazing privilege.

3 people found this helpful

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Best thing i have ever heard

This is the most amazing story told by the woman who should be an inspiration to everyone. I cried and laughed, this is not an easy story to hear and at times devastating

2 people found this helpful

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What a Book ...

Oh My Goodness I was with Ruth every step of the way Cried my eyes out and felt everything.
What a lady deserves so much & certainly more than she is getting ❤️

So unfair these Men/Boys were treat so badly by those who wete in a *so called caring* proffesion My heart went out to each and everyone

2 people found this helpful

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Beautiful and moving.

What a beautiful, moving read. Ruth paints a picture of the Aids crisis that tells the reality of the situation on the front lines for these young men. The harsh reality of being a member of a group so hated that their own mothers disowned them in their hour of need is told without filter, but with absolute care, it is obvious what a wonderful woman Ruth is, as well as her daughter Alison.

Listening to Ruth’s audio added a lot to this book, I could hear the emotion in her words, I found it incredibly moving and it made me cry on more than one occasion.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone, it will inform and move you.

2 people found this helpful

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Heart breaking and inspiring

To watch so many people that you care for waste away and have the added insult of being treated as sub-human, yet still continue caring and working selflessly for what is right is a strength only some people have. I cried my way through this book. What a story.

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What an amazing woman!

This book is so special, I’m so happy it was recommended to me by a friend. The author is the most courageous incredible lady and I’m so grateful for all she has done for my community. She is also a very gifted reader and a delight to listen to. Thank you!

2 people found this helpful

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A must read

One of the most powerful, and heart wrenching books I've ever read. Ruth Coker Burks is truly a modern day Saint, she faced adversity with sharp wit, and countered crippling abuse from her community with her righteous compassion... needless to say rather in a rather ironic fashion. The book illustrates the incredible bonds made with her "guys” and her life leading up to,during and, after the AIDs crisis. You will be angry, you will laugh, and you will cry. Beautifully narrated, this book deserves to be read/listened to by everyone, if you're a human being, this book is for you.

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Laughter, tears and everything in between

A beautiful story narrated by a beautiful soul. Everybody needs to listen to this book!

1 person found this helpful

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Good read

Really enjoyed this eye opening story of what it was like for people with aids, so glad we’ve came a long way in terms of treatment since then!

1 person found this helpful