My Life He Did Touch – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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A. J. Harrison

The story that A.J. Harrison shares in his memoir, My Life He Did Touch: An Unlikely Friendship That Caught the Eyes of the World, is one that will touch readers’ hearts and souls. In 1985, Ryan White, a young teenager at the time, contracted AIDS through contaminated blood during treatments for his hemophilia. A.J. heard about the emotional, physical and legal struggles Ryan and his family were facing on television as the story made local and eventually national news. As a singer and songwriter, Harrison felt compelled to do something to help Ryan and his family. Before long, he became dear friends with the family and developed a close bond with Ryan. He raised money to help the family offest their expenses and gave them emotional support that they never could’ve dreamed of. Harrison’s friendship continued with Ryan until the young man eventually succumbed; his body no longer able to fight. My Life He Did Touch takes a look at Ryan’s struggle from Harrison’s point of view and may surprise readers with the depth of a friendship that blossomed in the midst of such tragic circumstances.

My Life He Did Touch: An Unlikely Friendship That Caught the Eyes of the World is a deeply sad story that has joy and happiness at its core. Through A.J. Harrison’s words readers are transported to the mid-80s and the AIDS epidemic in a way that most people never dreamed would have happened. It may not have a happy ending, but it is a beautiful story of love, friendship and selflessness as Harrison gave of his time and energy to do what he felt was the right thing to do. My Life He Did Touch is a very short read. That is the main drawback; more of the story could have likely been shared. The end of My Life He Did Touch came suddenly and almost unexpectedly. Yet, that could metaphorically represent the end of Harrison’s young friend’s life. A.J. Harrison’s My Life He Did Touch is well-worth readers’ time and an opportunity for their hearts to broken wide open and in turn be more understanding and helpful of others.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Nowhere Else I’d Want to Be: A Memoir – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Carol D. Marsh

Nowhere Else I Want to Be is Carol Marsh’s heart-wrenching memoir of her time living and working at Miriam’s House in Washington, D.C. She founded Miriam’s House in 1996, as a place for homeless women suffering with AIDS and addiction to receive the care, shelter, and safety that they so desperately needed. In providing for these women, who came from backgrounds incredibly different than her own, Carol had to learn to face her own shortcomings: privilege, discrimination, poor leadership skills, and an overwhelming, yet often denied, desire to be liked. In doing so, she, along with the staff and residents of Miriam’s House, transformed it into a safe haven for victims of AIDS and their families, saving dozens of lives in more ways than one. 

In terms of content, Nowhere Else I Want to Be is certainly not the easiest book to read. It is rife with tragedy, from abandonment to parental neglect, devastating illness to inevitable death. It weighs on the heartstrings in a manner that most books cannot achieve, largely because the stories Carol Marsh shares are all real. These “characters,” who often seem larger than life in some respects, existed once, and now, do not. It’s an awful feeling, to fall in love with each quirky, lovable woman as Carol did, only to be forced to face their eventual demise. However, the tender tone in which each woman is described is admirable and honorable, shining a spotlight of love and acceptance on an otherwise horrific life. It’s devastating, but profound, in all the best ways.  

Nowhere Else I Want to Be is not a book easily defined, as it balances perfectly the qualities of humor, love, sadness, disdain, and acceptance, combined into one spectacular memoir. Carol Marsh takes her readers on the same journey she once walked, alongside society’s forgotten as they struggle to better themselves, contribute to communities who continuously reject them, and just survive, at any cost. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy, but it is forever worth it. Nowhere Else I Want to Be is a treasure as much as it is a tragedy, if for nothing else, for Carol’s bold, dignified, and honest approach to a truth best not left forgotten.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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