Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America
Keith Boykin (Carroll & Graf Publishers, $25, 311 pages)
Activist author and former Clinton aide on gay issues Keith Boykin casts a cold eye on the hot-button issue of the down low. He relives his own DL hookups, raps against hip-hop homophobia and calls out former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey as a DL honky. By the end, he’s buried stereotypes and unearthed the true social forces driving the culture of sexual secrecy and brotherly love.

We Are All the Same: A Story of a Boy’s Courage and a Mother’s Love
Jim Wooten (The Penguin Press, $19.95, 243 pages)
Veteran ABC news reporter Jim Wooten traces his friendship with charismatic South African HIV activist Nkosi Johnson, who died at the age of 12 in 2001. Wooten met the boy and his foster mother, Gail, after Nkosi’s historic stop-stigma plea at the 2000 International AIDS Conference. Here, the former New York Times writer pays tribute to Nkosi’s short-lived struggle to earn rights and respect for HIVers (he won South African pozzies the right to attend public school). 

And Check Out…
A shelf of other titles on African-American men are due this season: Brenda Stone Browder’s On the Up and Up: A Survival Guide for Women Living With Men on the Down Low (Dafina Books, $21) advises these “cover girls” on how to stay healthy and deal after their men come clean. Freedom in This Village: Twenty-Five Years of Black Gay Men's Writings (Carroll & Graf Publishers, $15.95), edited by best-selling author E. Lynn Harris, gives voice to 47 writers, many of whom have died of AIDS.

Cracking more distant cultures, UNAIDS consultant Susan Hunter explores AIDS in Asia: A Continent in Peril (Palgrave Macmillan, $29.95), while Keith McDermott’s novel Acqua Calda (Carroll & Graf Publishers, $24) laps the shores of Italy, telling the mid-’90s tale of an American HIVer actor who, instead of waiting to die, finds happiness in Italian theater.