A Piece of Me with HIV
by Shyronn Jones
Reviewed by John Francis Leonard
A Piece of Me with HIV is a compelling and valuable document of one young black woman’s journey through an HIV diagnosis. Shyronn Jones shares a frank and riveting tale of what it’s like for a young woman brought up in the housing projects of New York City to go from a girl who carefully guarded her virginity to a girl receiving the news of a life-changing sexually transmitted virus. She shares an honest tale of that dichotomy, what led a girl brought up with some strong female role models down the wrong path.
There are certainly challenges in Jones’ young life. There’s an absent father in prison for his crimes, life in the projects, the early loss of her mother to kidney disease, the later loss of her fiercely independent and strong grandmother, another figure central to her upbringing. Also, the streets around Jones are rife with crime and the ever-present drug trade. Her account of her life and surroundings is not sentimental; it is real. Few practiced authors can write with this kind of authenticity. (The only quibble I have with the book is that it needs a thorough editing to correct the few mistakes that often haunt self-published books.)
In order that we may document the HIV/AIDS crisis fully, all of our stories must be told. It’s not often enough that we hear stories from a perspective like Shyronn’s. But that alone does not make this all too short book important. Jones is now an active and important HIV advocate and activist in Atlanta. This piece must be a valuable tool in reaching young, urban girls, just like herself, who would be able to see their own stories within its pages and be encouraged to protect themselves from HIV and to get tested. Advocates like Jones, reaching out to these same communities, or any community, should take advantage of a resource like this—the compelling tale of one young person’s life and the changes that an HIV diagnosis can bring.
John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years and he is currently at work on his first novel, Fools Rush In. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.