Sunday, July 27, 2008

Story of another girl

Let me say straight out: I hate George Bush (I've worn my anti-W button on my backpack for eight long years until it fell off somewhere between Boston and Portland last week). I am ill-disposed to appreciate anything springing from his loins ('cause that's where his brain is, right?), but then I remember Laura ... the librarian. A seemingly smart woman married to an idiot (it's not like that hasn't happened before). After listening to Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope, I can say that perhaps Laura was a thankfully greater influence on her daughters than George. At least her heart is in the right place.

Jenna Bush met Ana -- a 17-year-old Panamanian woman with an infant daughter and a case of HIV -- while she was working for UNICEF. Ana was infected at birth by her mother -- who also infected her father; orphaned, she moved in with a grandmother, whose boyfriend sexually abused her and her younger sister Isabel. Exposing this abuse, Ana finds herself in a "reform center," but soon is sent to live in a hogar (I'm interpreting this as a hostel) for people with HIV/AIDS. There, she falls in love with a boy who fathers her daughter. Despite this story of unrelenting tragedy, Jenna connected wtih Ana's spirit and resiliency, and came home and wrote her biography.

This is not great literature -- the metaphors appear frequently, and always with a clunk. (And, I'm sorry I didn't write any of them down, but I was walking during most of my listening on this one.) But Jenna tells Ana's story with conviction, and you can't deny the power of her life's events.

Jenna narrates her book. And, unlike her father, she doesn't sound like an uneducated rube. Jenna has a pleasantly husky voice, with hints of her Texas origins (I guess because she is authentically Texan, she doesn't have that totally faky drawl that her father does ... OK that's the last dig, I promise). She reads with sincerity and a passion for her subject, but overdoes the emphasis -- every word is not that important. When she got to the moments of true drama and tragedy -- when she faces the birth of her possibly infected daughter as her boyfriend grows sicker -- she just sounded melodramatic. I also found her occasional Spanish to be dodgy, sometimes she sounded authentic, other times it really dinged the ear.

The audio includes a letter from the author encouraging teen activism, and the packaging said that the CD was enhanced with some printable materials. An interview with her was fairly incoherent, both on her behalf as well as her interviewer --neither of whom sounded particularly prepared (there were lots of "um"s and pauses). Still, it's an important story and I appreciate that it's available in several media for consumption.

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