The Other Pandemic
Lynn Curlee, author
Lynn Curlee has a master's degree in art history and has both written and illustrated more than a dozen books for children, including Trains, Skyscraper, Ballpark: The Story of America's Baseball Fields, Capital, and The Great Nijinsky, a YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist. His work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, New York City, and Long Island.
Read more about Lynn.
- Coming soon!
This heartbreaking memoir by Curlee (The Great Nijinsky) chronicles “how it was to grow up and live as a gay man in the United States” before and during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Taking an elegiac tone, Curlee describes his childhood in 1960s North C arolina. Quick-moving subsequent chapters recall Curlee’s experiences participating in the disco scene on Fire Island, his impulsive move to California in 1979, and his return to N.Y.C. in the early 1980s, where he and his friends struggled to understand why so many gay men were “dying horrible, gruesome deaths.” While perceived comparisons to Covid-19, as outlined in an introduction, are minimally explored, Curlee briefly covers their medical and social differences and similarities, as well as the pervasive impact they each had on society. Sidebars about HIV/AIDS succinctly detail the facts, and Curlee’s straightforward prose capably conveys the era’s worsening bias and fear. Most powerful of all, however, is the novel’s focus on Curlee’s inner circle and the people he lost to the crisis, including his partner, making for a thought-provoking history about what it was like to live during that time, and a good start for further exploration. Extensive back matter concludes.
A firsthand account of living through the AIDS pandemic as a young, gay man in the U.S.
Prolific author for young readers Curlee introduces teens to this topic by starting with Covid-19 as an empathic entryway to the past. He describes being a teenager in 1960s North Carolina, setting the scene in terms of technology and daily life and painting a picture of a time when sex was a secret kept by adults and homosexuality was only mentioned in joking or insulting ways. He goes on to chronicle how movements seeking equality across gender, sexuality, and race were interconnected and how the Stonewall uprising set the stage for a dazzling period of freedom and falling in love during the 1970s disco era in New York City. That fun-filled time came crashing down as many of Curlee’s vibrant friends began to die sudden, mysterious deaths. As the book progresses, educational, historical, and scientific content in text boxes increasingly supplements the narrative, although its placement and layout are sometimes distracting. It can also become difficult to track all the different individuals who are introduced. However, Curlee’s memoir, illustrated with personal photographs, is intimate and resonant as it presents the thrill of coming out and living openly and the fear and pain that followed when so many people he loved were taken from him too soon.
Compelling and important. (important people, the origins of AIDS, author’s note, musical references, source notes, select bibliography, image credits, index)
Ages: 12 and up
Page count: 176
6 x 9