CBR15Passport Different genres (Nonfiction as memoir)
Holy Flying Monkeys! The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir was not what I expected. My first thought was, “Um…do we really need a book about AIDS? Didn’t we already “do that?” But then I realized two things, first it was a memoir and not a factual book (my bad) and second, especially as I got into it, I realized that yes, we really do need this book.
This is not a book about AIDS, but about Lynn Curlee and his coming of age amongst all of it. The Stonewall Riots were only a few years before, so here we have a world that is finding their sexuality. Gay men were exploring the world open to them, but also still in the underground. Such as the underground disco scene, where drugs and sex were easy to obtain. We find that people were just trying to have fun, trying to find themselves, were trying to prove that they were valid. But then AIDS came to the party uninvited.
By starting his book with comparisons to Covid-19 I thought it would get preachy, but it never really does. Oh sure, Curlee has strong opinions on things, but he is writing a love letter to the men he knew, and to those who he could have known. But regardless, all those men would eventually lose their lives not just because of the sickness but because of the political and community attitudes and climate of that time. And had we paid attention to what was going on, maybe we would have been ready for now. But due to what they learned about AIDS and HIV and the treatments, we were able to get what we have, and perhaps sooner than too late. Still, it’s been around 40 years and there is no cure, and no vaccine, just (hopefully you won’t have too many side effects) treatments.
This is not an easy read, but a beautiful story. Even though AIDS might seem “ancient history,” it is still an issue today (turn on the TV and have a beautiful people PrEp commercial). But, Curlee does wonder how much do today’s youth, “Get it”? They did not see their friends, lovers, and community literally wasting away. Curlee shows that had we learned from our mistakes, we might have had a way to stop Covid sooner. But we decided to go the way of politics instead of calling it the health crisis that both were. We are now, in many ways, even more political than then with “individual rights” and issues with vaccine. Curlee mentions that had there been a vaccine back then, he doesn’t know a single person who would say no.
There are some descriptions of the illness, drug use, and sexuality/sexual activities, and especially with his partner John, the realities of death, but overall, it is tastefully and realistically portrayed. Curlee tells you how he felt, how he feels, what he saw, and what he experienced. I was able to see some of the things I knew confirmed, some new information, and able to see a crisis from someone who was on the front lines.
I could probably write and other 500 words on the smallest detail that was given. There are the facts (as of 2000 there were almost 775,00 diagnosed and almost 450,000 had died. Of course the last 23 added to that number). And he compares how a “small percentage” (but still one is too many) have been diagnosed with/died from Covid, but that is a “maybe” death sentence, AIDS was a guarantee of not if but when. This, and so much more I greedily gobbled up. I can’t wait until mid/late summer 2023 for you to find your own copy.
Read via Edelweiss this young adult book is best for ages 14 and up not due to content, but concepts.