In Fact or Fiction I recommend a fiction and nonfiction book on the same topic. In this month’s article you can choose a heart-wrenching novel, a poignant memoir or both! Either way you’ll be moved by these compassionate stories about the tragedy of AIDS in the 1980s.
In this deeply affecting novel, 24 year-old Brian returns home to the small town of Chester, Ohio, after spending six years in New York City. He’s heartbroken and weary of witnessing the sickness and deaths of so many beautiful young men to AIDS. Brian longs to return to happier times. However, it’s 1987 and neither his family nor his town are ready for his return, especially after discovering he is one of the beautiful young men dying of AIDS. Told from multiple perspectives, The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels is a sad, evocative portrait of a family and a town challenged by homophobia and the tragedy of AIDS.
If you weren’t teary at the end of The Prettiest Star (I admit I was), you may well be as you begin Ruth Coker Burks’ inspirational memoir All the Young Men. While visiting a friend in an Arkansas hospital in the 1980s Burks overheard a young man crying for his mother. She was shocked when she realized that none of the hospital staff wanted to care for him because he had AIDS. She went to his room, held his hand and stayed with him when he died. Rejected by his family even after his death, Burks buried his ashes in her own family cemetery. Out of this tragedy an activist was born. Burks paints a vivid picture of Hot Springs, Arkansas in the 1980s and the many hurdles and challenges she faced to get AIDS patients health care, decent housing, food and social support.