The Essential Randy Boyd: Review

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The Essential Randy Boyd, Vol. 1
by Randy Boyd
Amazon Digital Services

Reviewed by John Francis Leonard

In The Essential Randy Boyd its author gathers a powerful collection of his writing, both fiction and non, which pulls few punches. Boyd tackles many of the subjects—mainly race and HIV status—that we, as Americans, still find uncomfortable and subsequently are still struggling with in these difficult times. As many of these pieces were written over the past three decades, we are reminded that these scars on our culture are not at all new, a fact to which many Black as well as HIV-positive citizens can attest.

The book’s earliest writings deal with race head-on. He poignantly recalls having that particularly ugly six-letter epithet for a black person hurled at him out of a USC frat house window on his first day of attending the university. He had dreamed of a tolerant campus culture and subsequently transferred to UCLA, where he went on to great success. We all know what that word was, I won’t spell it out here—I don’t have that right, and he uses it to point out it is often used, as a tool of oppression. Today’s culture of gay men, online in particular, are called to the carpet as well. We all see it, many of us give it a pass—“Whites only,” “DDF,” “Clean,” “It’s just my preference”—the list of exclusions goes on. Boyd explores what this really says about a minority group that considers itself liberated and tolerant. We also are privileged to read an incredible sampling of Boyd’s fiction with excerpts from novels such as Bridge Across the Ocean, in which a young black man reflects on his struggles with his weight, race, and HIV status.

It’s a collection imbued with hope, however. Boyd exalts in the joy of his being a long-term survivor of the early AIDS crisis. As he puts it, “Seemingly not a week goes by where I don’t metaphorically pinch myself—with boundless gratitude—that I have the great fortune of being alive.” This is an incredible collection of the writings and recollections of a five-time Lambda Literary Award nominee who isn’t afraid to take a close look at his own life and the lives of those who make up his community.


John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for thirteen years and he is currently at work on his first novel, Fools Rush In. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he writes reviews for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.