A Haven Before Heaven
by Stefanie Held
Amazon Digital Services
Reviewed by John Francis Leonard
In A Haven Before Heaven, author Stefanie Held records yet another chapter of life during the early AIDS crisis. Not only do the HIV-positive who have lived despite this early onslaught count among our long-term survivors, but also those who made a difference in those early years and fought for those affected by this devastating disease, caring for them, raising funds for research, giving everything for their friends and family. Held and her husband, Maury, were on the front lines in the fight against AIDS from the early eighties on when they saw so many in the artistic circles of their Dallas home becoming ill and dying. In the late eighties, they saw an overlooked population of children and families that needed champions and founded Bryan’s House, a center that provided much needed care and support. This population of vulnerable families was often forgotten in the face of all the devastation to the gay community, and this altruistic couple saw another opportunity to make a real difference.
In a skillfully wrought and lovingly told story, Held records the lives of all those helped and supported by her then-new endeavor. Bryan’s House was the first national center for AIDS dedicated to families affected by the disease. It provided a second home for families where either a child, a caregiver, or even both were dying of the illness. The stories Held records in these pages are yet another vital record of a time when there seemed to be so little hope and we lost so many. Telling their stories keeps these souls alive in our hearts and minds, and any chance to do so is vital——especially when it’s done with the care and skill Held displays in these touching and well written pages.
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. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.