Assotto Saint, in Spells of a Voodoo Doll, wrote: “Anytime one tries to take fragments of one’s personal mythology and make them understandable to the whole world, one reaches back to the past. It must be dreamed again.” As AIDS-conscious writers and readers, we must do the same with our collective memory and our communal mythology.
Melvin Dixon, Paul Monette, David Wojnarowicz, Arturo Islas, Essex Hemphill, Assotto Saint, Cookie Mueller, David B. Feinberg, Robert Ferro, Gil Cuadros, Tory Dent, Tim Dlugos—too many, too many to name—wrote toward a future they knew they probably would never see. The writers of the AIDS Generation lobbed rocks in the air, shot arrows sharp as Cupid’s dreams, handed buckets of water forward. They ferried precious insights into the public consciousness of their present-day, and to the distant shore of us.
So, as writers today, here we stand—watching the coastline shift as much as it stays the same. We take their rocks, and Cupid’s arrows, and buckets of water, and add our own essentials to our survival kit.
The writers who have garnered top honors in our annual Christopher Hewitt Awards, now in its sixth year, have done exactly this. The short story “The Pond,” by John Whittier Treat, ruminates on the mystery of grief. The creative nonfiction piece “The Custody Visit (1987),” by Andrea Laiacona Dooley, reflects on how partial and misguided knowledge shapes our relationship to those living with HIV/AIDS whom we love, or never really had the chance to really love. The play “Nancy [email protected]&*ing Reagan,” by Daniel Hurewitz, delves into the generation gap we are now experiencing as long-term survivors and new members of the tribe. The poem “San Francisco General,” by Greg Casale, creates an elegy amidst indifference.
The judges—Joy Gaines-Friedler (nonfiction); Bruce Ward (drama); Noah Stetzer (poetry); and Chael Needle and Hank Trout (fiction)—were pleasantly overwhelmed with the number and quality of the submissions. We offer these pieces of the past dreamed again.
Sixth Annual Christopher Hewitt Awards
Andrea Laiacona Dooley, “The Custody Visit (1987)” (winner)
Dale Corvino, “Yasss Child” (honorable mention 1)
Paul Aguilar, “Never Forget Your First” (honorable mention 2)
Daniel Hurewitz, “Nancy [email protected]&*ing Reagan” (winner)
Gina Femia, “We Are a Masterpiece” (honorable mention)
Chael Needle is Managing Editor of A&U. Follow him on Twitter @ChaelNeedle.