The AIDS Generation:
Stories of Survival and Resilience
Oxford University Press
by Perry N. Halkitis
Reviewed by Larry Buhl
Those who reached adulthood during WWII have been called the greatest generation. In developing his book, The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience, Perry Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, calls young gay men who came of age in the United States in the 1980s “the bravest generation,” with a common denominator of resilience.
Those who came of age since antiretrovirals might find it harder to relate to this remarkable document of fifteen long-term HIV/AIDS survivors whose entrée into gay life was shrouded in fear and death. Those who were there will find a lot of parallel stories in this book, which is at once sweet, sad, and illuminating.
Halkitis, an Associate Dean at New York University, delves deep into the lives of these subjects to find what we might have expected: that the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was a formative experience that still shapes their outlook on sex, love, relationships, and living. But their experiences are diverse, and the interviews are not sanitized. The experiences and attitudes of these men, who are now facing the slings and arrows of aging in addition to the old wounds of HIV, are on display in all their rawness, rage, humor and anguish. And bravery.
Halkitis also uses these fifteen interviews and his years of research and teaching about HIV/AIDS and the lives of gay men and his own experiences as a man of the AIDS generation to analyze public policy and explore the popular culture representations of the virus. These are stories that need to be heard. It’s a remarkable and accessible book about a terrifying time in gay history, a time that’s still with all of us, even a little bit, no matter how badly we want to move on.
Larry Buhl is a radio news reporter, screenwriter, and novelist living in Los Angeles. His young adult novel, The Genius of Little Things, debuted in January 2013.