Oct 30 2008
Okay, so I’ll confess: before I interviewed for my job at the Harvard AIDS Initiative, I looked on a map to make sure that Botswana was where I thought it was. (And it was, right there north of South Africa.) I got the job and, four months later, landed in Africa for the first time.
If you mention Botswana to a lot of Americans, they’ll ask, “Have you read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?” If you haven’t; do so. I read this first book in Alexander McCall Smith’s mystery series to get a sense of the country. It’s an enjoyable read, chronicling the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s leading and only female private detective. McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and educated in Scotland. After working for years as a Professor of Law in Scotland, he returned to Africa to work in Botswana. His books, worldwide bestsellers, portray the people and changing culture of Botswana. If you’re a mystery junkie, there are eight more books in the series.
What may not be so obvious when you’re visiting Botswana is that it has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. According to the 2007 UNAIDS Update, 24% of the adult population is HIV positive. To get a sense of what this means on a human level, I recommend two books. First, 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa, by Stephanie Nolen, a reporter for Toronto’s Globe and Mail, features profiles of 28 Africans affected by HIV/AIDS. Also recommended is Sizwe’s Test: A Young Man’s Journey through Africa’s AIDS Epidemic. Written by journalist Jonny Steinberg, the book is a nuanced account of one South African man’s decision about whether or not to be tested for HIV.Africa, Alexander McCall Smith, Book Reviews, Botswana, News, Travel Writing