On the Spot: Uzodinma Iweala

July 19, 2012

Writer Uzodinma Iweala's second book, "Our Kind of People," is about HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

D.C. native Uzodinma Iweala earned accolades in 2005 for “Beasts of No Nation,” a heartbreaking fictional tale about child soldiers in West Africa. Since then, he’s worked in New York on health policy related to sub-Saharan Africa and earned a medical degree from Columbia University. His just-released second book, “Our Kind of People,” is a nonfiction work based on interviews Iweala conducted over four years with Nigerians dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Was there a moment when you knew you wanted to write this book?
When I was working on health policy in New York, there was a way of speaking about Africans and HIV/AIDS that distanced people living in sub-Saharan Africa from the rest of the population. I wanted to see if there was a way to write about the epidemic that shows it’s not an alien species dealing with alien problems.

What made you turn to nonfiction?
I was interested in seeing if it would be possible to have a bunch of different voices speak about their experiences with HIV/AIDS.

What surprised you the most?
People say HIV is such a taboo subject, people run away from it. But what I found is people were very open about speaking about the disease and their experiences with it.

Are you optimistic about the future for prevention and for those living with AIDS?
I am. The more people you treat, the more people realize that this is not an end-of-life thing. And it’s sort of like, as opposed to a vicious cycle, it’s a positive cycle: The more you see, the more you do, the better it gets.

Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; Thu., 7 p.m., free; 202-364-1919. (Van Ness)

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