1980: Review

by David Cornish, MD

Reviewed by John Francis Leonard

It’s the dawn of the eighties and Dr. Arthur Noble, a young medical resident, is facing a mystery. A disparate group of patients, including a startling number of young, San Francisco gay men, are presenting themselves at his hospital with a similar set of symptoms, all of them leading to their early demise. He and a group of physicians in a number of major cities are alarmed as they notice the patterns. Arthur works tirelessly as he completes his residency to make sense of so many deaths.

1980 is a fascinating read written with the medical professional in mind. There is a lot of it that is difficult for the layperson to comprehend, medical terminology, and professional diagnostic language that can be tricky for the average person. For anyone with an interest in medicine and a medical dictionary at hand, however, it’s a fascinating read. Real-life medical heroes of the early AIDS pandemic, such as Dr. Michael Gottlieb in Los Angeles, are among the book’s supporting cast members. Arthur fights not only a medical mystery, but an entrenched system rife with prejudice for some of the plague’s most marginalized victims. One of the book’s strengths is its full picture of the various groups and persons affected by the disease. There are hemophiliacs, other recipients of significant blood transfusions, IV drug users, and various ethnic groups such as Haitians. It paints a complete picture of the early days of the crisis.

There were more than a few doctors who were at the forefront of diagnosing AIDS early on and this fascinating book offers a fictionalized portrait of their tireless work. It is an interesting, if technically heavy read, that gets to the heart of one of the most frightening mysteries of modern medicine. Medical professionals will find it fascinating and the the general public, compelling.

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 fifteen 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 is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.