Scroll To Top

HIV 101 Syllabus: 7 Great Back to School Reads


From a graphic novel about an AIDS ward at the height of the epidemic, to a poetry book by a poz author, Plus' crash course entertains and informs.


Don’t Call Us Dead, by black queer, HIV-positive poet Danez Smith, is the author’s highly anticipated second collection. Smith, who uses the pronoun they, won a Lambda Literary Award for their first book [insert] boy. Don’t Call Us Dead is equally compelling. It begins with the devastating poem “summer, somewhere,” imagining an afterlife where black boys who were killed by police receive the love, health, security, and abundance they deserved on earth. When not addressing HIV issues (testing, seroconversion, criminalization), the remaining poems rebuke white America, gay dating apps, and Donald Trump.
(—David Artavia


Trunky: Transgender Junky is Samuel Peterson’s gritty, brutally honest, yet still hilarious memoir of his time spent in a Southern rehab facility. Struggling with a gender transition, he had fallen into the depths of depression and relapsed after 10 years of sobreity. During a life changing 21 days, Peterson is surrounded by a diverse group of men—thugs, white supremacists, professional athletes, and business men—all fearful of the truths that lie at the core of their addictions. As Peterson navigates his perilous journey to sobriety, he also finds himself—through newfound courage and naked vulnerability—on an unexpected journey into the depths of the human soul. (—Desiree Guererro


Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Among the takeaways one has after reading MK Czerwiec’s graphic novel Taking Turns is that even in the form of sequential art, the story of the early days of the HIV epidemic is a visceral and heart wrenching experience. In 1994, at the height of the epidemic, Czerwiec took her first nursing job at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. She was part of the staff of HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371, a community for thousands of patients with HIV or AIDS and their caregivers. Taking Turns combines Czerwiec’s memories with the oral histories of patients, family members, and staff, going back and forth in time, revisiting life and death in the ward and how it affected and informed those who passed through it. HIV deaths in the Midwest peaked in 1995 and declined drastically with the advent of better meds, which led to a decline in patient populations (and ultimately Unit 371’s closure). Czerwiec’s illustrations are as friendly and inviting as a children’s book, yet they stir up tremendous emotions as a person, an institution, and a community respond to the HIV epidemic. (—Savas Abadsidis


The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA, a detailed chronology told through a feminist lens, this book explores the history of how AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power’s Los Angeles division battled the governmental, medical, and institutional neglect that characterized the early days of the epidemic. While shining a light on another important chapter of ACT UP (New York generally gets the most ink in history books), author Bennita Roth exposes the intersectionality inherent in the group’s grassroots activism, how local politics shaped the organization, and the social and gender inequalities that existed within ACT UP/LA itself. Roth’s book seems particularly relevant as healthcare has become part of multi-issue activism in 2017. (—DA


Your Body’s Brilliant Design: A Revolutionary Approach to Relieving Chronic Pain is a master guidebook to author Karen M. Gabler’s pioneering approach in rediscovering the body’s natural architecture in order to live pain-free. Gabler is an expert on fascia (the web of connective tissue that runs through our bodies) and why it’s the cause of so much pain.  (—Diane Anderson-Minshall


Together, Closer is Giovanni Frazzetto’s attempt to use neuroscience to answer the question of who we decide to get close to. Subtitled “The Art and Science of Intimacy in Friendship, Love, and Family,” the book offers stories of, among others, a woman with an entirely fictional boyfriend and a gay couple in a cycle of rejection and attraction. 



The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery is the new and revised edition from chef Rebecca Katz and co-author Mat Edelson. A scrumptuous collection of recipes designed to help patients thrive while going through any sort of cancer treatment is great for anyone dealing with immune system issues. The best part, though, is that while it’s filled with foods that are rich in nutrients, minerals, and phyto-chemicals that are good for you, these recipes are tasty, too. I can’t get enough of the simple but delish Thai It Up Chicken Soup that graces the cover. And if you don’t cook, there’s a list of good foods to add to your diet. ( —DAM

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

HIV Plus Editors