Fiction writing, from short stories to novels, is woefully underrated. When people ask me about my writing, I ask if they like reading. Eyes bright, they answer that of course they do. Argh, then they list their fave non-fiction titles. Any discussion of fiction elicits sighs about their lack of free time.
Folks in my circle muscle through books, gobble self-help and cookbooks and how-tos the way they do bitter greens and vitamins. Fiction, to them, is dessert, chocolate that isn’t even in the dark anti-oxidant range.
I beg to differ.
In keeping with the food/nutrition analogy, self-help is great in the way of popping supplements. Fiction, on the other hand, is whole-food goodness, nourishing in ways that defy science.
“Like a Love Story,” by Abdi Nazemian, is an exquisitely told novel. Ostensibly, it’s for young adults, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. In it, an Iranian-American teenage boy comes to grips with his gayness amid 1980’s AIDS. The audiobook also features a terrific cast of narrators.
In the way only fiction can, “Like a Love Story” evoked memories, feelings, and thoughts. A couple of nights after finishing it, I dreamt of a beautiful young man, David Fradkin, who I knew back then. He was wise, fun, talented, full of life… and got sick… Here’s a bit more about him.
Some liken AIDS to Covid. Hardly!
Yes, Covid involves ugliness, including squabbles between maskers and vaxers. However, the early days of AIDS were completely hateful.
With AIDS, people from government officials on down — and unfortunately they still do! — blamed victims and refused to help. Countless lives would’ve been saved if it had been handled with even half the urgency Covid inspired, false starts, mishaps, and all.
Besides my prior post’s mentions of experiences with AIDS, at another job during the early-ish AIDS era, this one as a temporary administrative assistant at an advertising agency, there was a man who impressed me because of how truly kind and professional he was. I worked many of the agency’s desks, filled in when full-timers were on vacation or sick leave. This man was a dancer in his real night-and-weekend job, and we liked to talk about our involvement with the entertainment industry. When I eventually subbed at his desk, days turned into weeks into months. The office was smallish and everyone lamented his absence. When I couldn’t find one of his computer files, one of his bosses insisted I phone his home.
Oh, how I wish I hadn’t. Everyone knew he had AIDS, that he was home dying. But I called and this good soul answered and then promptly hung up on me when he found out why I’d called Good for him.
On another day back then, I parked my car to temp at another office. (Most likely I was running late, having gotten lost, asked for directions at a gas station, and searched the Thomas Brothers map book under my seat, haha.) In the lot, a gaunt young man gasped with exertion, trying to get out of his car, then sat back down to catch his breath as he rested his forehead on his steering wheel. No, I couldn’t help, because yes, I knew…
In my heart’s eye, we’re all lucky for any gay man who’s still with us, having survived those horrible times. In my circle, by comparison, Covid seems like nothing, nowhere near the overwhelming number of deaths. Regardless of real statistics, senseless deaths due to hatred define AIDS, whereas politics and stupidity define Covid.
Read “Like a Love Story” because it’s hopeful — also, in ways that non-fiction can’t, it lets readers step into history to see that always, we’re more alike than not, when it comes to confusion and fear. Nazemian’s “The Authentics” is a great read too!
“Cat Brushing,” is a book that Jane Campbell at age 80! Among her radical collection of short stories, no topic is off-limits. Each vignette of noir humor illustrates how, to put it mildly and without revealing too much, we don’t ever have to stop surprising ourselves or anybody else.
While I’ve got your ear or rather eyes, if you haven’t already heard, a young woman in Iran was killed merely for not wearing her head scarf modestly enough. People there are so angry, so beyond fed up with government oppression, that the murder has lit the fuse to numerous public outcries.
To censor protesters, the government has closed access to WhatsApp, a major international internet phone/text/video app. You can help their voices be heard by sharing this video…
Were you around to remember or hear about AIDS in the 1980s? Then or now, what’s your most potent impression?