Art & Understanding
Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U
Eds. Chael Needle & Diane Goettel
Black Lawrence Press
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]iterature can form a counternarrative to the “official” story told about the realities of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The “official” story, in the beginning of the pandemic, was silence, followed by a lexicon rife with fear-mongering, blaming and shaming, and minimalizing. Through a lack of concern, conscience, and coverage, our lives were dismissed by the government, by the medical establishment and healthcare facilities, by the media, and by the public at large. Our marginalization was accomplished by casting us as the Other, and assembling AIDS animus from other social forces like homophobia, racism, misogyny, and classism, among others, in an attempt to squelch the realities of living with a disease that nobody in power seemed to want to name. Why? Those realities spoke to the injustices and indignities of Reagan’s America and to the blind spots of our friends’ and family’s compassion.
The silencing was not a success. The diversity of our community became its unity. Alliances were formed; activism and self-determination came to the fore. Literary responses became a way to tell a different story about our lives. A&U Magazine, from its inception in 1991, was formed in part to showcase these responses. It featured poetry, drama, fiction, and creative non-fiction that explored the emotional complexity, the strategies of survival, and the pressing questions of the pandemic. Individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and those who loved them, expressed ideas that helped us resist the toxic effects of oppression. Fight Back, Fight AIDS became Write Back, Write AIDS.
Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U collects some of the best work from emerging and established writers (over seventy-five) whose creativity graced our pages. The anthology includes work from Aldo Alvarez, Rane Arroyo, Patrick Barnes, Mark Bibbins, Perry Brass, Brent Calderwood, Alex Cigale, Louie Clay, Migdalia Cruz, Jameson Currier, Tim Dlugos, Joy Gaines-Friedler, Craig G. Harris,, William M. Hoffman, Michael Lassell, Chip Livingston, Craig Lucas, Raymond Luczak, Paula Martinac, Michael Montlack, Janell Moon, Lesléa Newman, Mark O’Donnell, Robert Patrick, Assotto Saint, Angela Lam Turpin, Bruce Ward, Emanuel Xavier, and Bonnie ZoBell, among others. Together, they interrupt the dominant narrative of silence; in the midst of death, they write about life, our lives, what needs to be said and what needs to be done before leaving.