Remembering Rhomylly B. Forbes

Rhomylly B. Forbes. Photo by Jim Hogg Photography

“Anyone can help combat this disease by educating others, by caring for the sick, by raising funds for AIDS research. Everyone should help, and most importantly, can help, no matter their circumstances. There are no excuses for doing nothing about AIDS.

So what’s your excuse now?”

Rhomylly B. Forbes wrote these words when reviewing Breaking the Walls of Silence for the July 1998 issue of A&U. Rhomylly had a nifty way of weaving her own AIDS advocacy into her writing.

Never a detached observer, she was generous with examples from her own life if she felt they could help others. Her writing is sprinkled with references to her parents’ divorce, relationship break-ups, her own foibles and fierce truths. Knowing that words mattered, especially when it comes to something as high-stakes as HIV/AIDS, she sided with what people are actually doing and saying rather than handed-down ideas. Impatient with books written in academic-speak, she was always looking out for lay readers who did not have, as she once wrote, “multiple college degrees.” She was expert at showing dense writers the door and welcoming plain-spoken, provocative, and community-based thinking. Her writing lit a path toward taking action for positive change.

For fourteen years, Rhomylly B. Forbes contributed to A&U her talent, dedication and commitment to those living with HIV/AIDS, past and present. Since 1997, she has written countless reviews, celebrating writers such as Lawrence Schimel and Rafael Campos. She interviewed writers like Tony Kushner and Armistead Maupin, and artists like Steed Taylor, Cameron Wolf, Becky Trotter, Dr. Joel Wateres, Dennis McGee, Nancer LeMoins, Edward Lightener, Tim Tate, and Matt Jackson. For the past four years, she served as A&U’s Book Review Editor. She made a point to let us know that her work with A&U inspired her to pursue a degree in journalism.

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Rhomylly died on April 10 of complications related to her cancer treatment. Our condolences go out to her husband and daughter, her family, as well as all the people she touched as a writer, advocate, and community member.

Her legacy is deep. Among her many accomplishments, she cofounded the Free Spirit Alliance, a spiritual networking organization serving the Pagan and Pantheist religious communities. She wrote articles for Circle Magazine and Witchvox. A prolific fiction writer, her work has been anthologized in Cherished Blood, Pillow Talk, Queer View Mirror II, Tomboys, Dykes and Daring-Do, and Close Calls. As Bronwen Forbes, she penned Make Merry In Step and Song: A Seasonal Treasury of Music, Mummer’s Plays & Celebrations in the English Folk Tradition, and her latest, published this month from Llewellyn Worldwide, The Small-Town Pagan’s Survival Guide: How to Thrive in Any Community.

In a November 2008 review she wrote:

“If you’re in the middle of your own dark night of the soul, no matter the reason, When You’re Falling, Dive will give you hope that there will be a dawn. And it will be glorious.”

This description could apply to her own writing. Thank you, Rhomylly, for helping us wake to glorious dawns.

June 2011