The Naked Truth is the memoir of Marvelyn Brown, a young HIV activist from Nashville, TN. She contracted HIV from a boyfriend at 19, was diagnosed extremely quickly, and shot to the top of HIV activism circles.
This book started out okay. Marvelyn is funny and charismatic, and very matter of fact about the bad decisions and ways of thinking that led to her contracting HIV. But honestly, this book just did not need to be a book. It’s a pretty slim paperback as it is, with the point of her diagnosis hitting about midpoint. Despite being a book about HIV, the first half is by far the best, although still not without issues. Her sense of perspective is very odd. When she talks about the rough year she’s had, her time spent “feuding” with the “pretty girls” seems to be on even footing with her best friend’s horrific suicide. Her understanding of her mother comes across as very, very immature, as nearly everything she does she at least partially blames on her mother being “critical” of her. Her mom actually seems like a pretty strong, kickass lady trying her damndest to pull her family permanently out of poverty who was horrified by the flighty, destructive, self-absorbed path her daughter was taking. I kept waiting for a moment of clarity about that but it never happened.
And that was the first half, which was the best half. The second was pretty much a surface-level list of accomplishments. “And then I spoke at this college, then this one, then I went to the BET awards and sat next to Rhianna. Then I rode in a limo. Then I went to Africa. Then I was on TV.” I mean, great for her, but it is not even remotely half-a-book’s worth of interesting material.
This book was written when Marvelyn was still quite young, and I think she was just still too close to her experiences to reflect on them. At the end of the book, she still doesn’t really know what she’s going to do with her life and is really the same person she always has been. It’s an odd place to end. She seems like a cool person, but this didn’t need to be a book at all.