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Memoirs of the AIDS Era

Memoirs of the AIDS Era

Memoirs and bios that remind us it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The Sea is Quiet Tonight by Michael H. Ward is the author’s deeply personal yet inspirational memoir of the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Ward is a retired psychotherapist and award-winning author who eloquently takes the reader back to a time where little was known about the disease and few survived. He candidly chronicles the decline and death of his partner, Mark, from AIDS complications. In doing so, Ward seeks not only to honor all lost in this generation, but also open a vital window to the past before modern medical advances helped to save lives. His story is wrenching in its detail of a time when a diagnosis was also a death sentence, and the humanity of the LGBTQ community shined brightest as it took care of its own. Ward’s partner Mark was only the 100th person in the state of Massachusetts diagnosed with AIDS, and Ward captures this terrifying moment in our history when even well meaning doctors had little to offer beyond hospice care. (

Stonewall Strong: Gay Men’s Heroic Fight For Resilience, Good Health, And A Strong Community by John-Manuel Andriote is the longtime Washington, D.C., health journalist’s own story of life after learning he was HIV-positive. Andriote had made a name for himself reporting on the AIDS epidemic from the perspective of an HIV-negative gay man for two decades, then he became poz. Stonewall Strong is Andriote’s story of coming to accept that it was his own resilience and desire to stay healthy and alive that would determine his quality and length of life. More than a simple autobiography, it instead includes pivotal moments in recent history as manifestations of the resilience of gay men in the face of the AIDS epidemic. Beginning with the famed 1969 Stonewall Riots, to the initial shock of the early years of dealing with the crisis, and pushing onwards to the fight for marriage equality and basic human rights for all, Andriote has penned an informative and insightful yet touching work that will resonate deeply with readers. (

The Weight of the Earth: The Tape Journals of David Wojnarowicz edited by Lisa Darms and David O’Neill is a raw and revealing look at the thoughts and emotions of the 1980s avant-garde American artist. During the height of the AIDS epidemic, Wojnarowicz began an audio journal using cassette tapes, reflecting on his life, his art, his dreams, and the world around him. The resulting transcripts take the reader back to a wilder time coming to grips with a horrifying disease, and the impact it was having on a recently-liberated gay and bi male community. His words and thoughts are unflinching as he struggles to understand and accept his own fight against the disease, at a time before medication made it manageable. At times funny, angry, despairing, and uplifting, The Weight of the Earth covers a period largely missing from the artist’s written journals. Darms and O’Neill have astutely edited this volume of recordings in a way that captures both the vitality and uncertainty of life in this era, when America did not extend empathy to those whose community was dealing with the early sunset of life from an unrelenting plague that showed no pity or mercy for the afflicted. (

Exile Within Exiles: Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary by James N. Green, paints a dynamic portrait of the significant and complex gay Brazilian revolutionary and activist of the book’s title. Born in 1946, Herbert Daniel was originally a medical student at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, but soon gravitated towards the leftist uprisings of the time. He joined a guerilla organization and took up arms against the oppressive military dictatorship, but was forced to conceal his sexuality from his comrades in what he aptly described as internal exile. Following a government crackdown in the 1970s, he was forced to flee to Europe where his political self-education continued unabated. Upon his return to Brazil in 1981, he became a political and social activist for LGBTQ rights, feminism, environmental justice, and the fight for awareness and a response to both the scourge of AIDS, and the discrimination and ostracization of those living with HIV. Exile Within Exiles speaks to Daniel’s personal struggle not just against the Brazilian dictatorship but also the left’s construction of revolutionary masculinity — as well as his ultimate losing battle against AIDS. Green positions Daniel as a link between a more violently intolerant past and a progressive movement that seeks dialog and results. (

Everywhere Home: A Life In Essays by longtime journalist and activist Fenton Johnson showcases his preoccupations with the politics of gender and sexuality, art, desire, religion, geography, and the intersectionality of these themes. These writings span nearly 30 years, from the 1980s gripped with AIDS and the Reagan revolution, to the hope and change of Obama and the overt racism and division of the Trumpian present. From Kentucky to Calcutta and Paris to San Francisco, Everywhere Home reveals a dynamic portrait of a mind exploring central questions of belief and identity over a period when the LGBTQ community was coming into its own while dealing with outside forces seeking to oppress and destroy it. Johnson eloquently interweaves pop culture, spirituality, history, and politics with the musical cadence of a natural storyteller. (

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