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YA Nonfiction Review: The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir by Lynn Curlee

Title: The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir

Author: Lynn Curlee
Year published: 2023
Category: YA nonfiction
Pages: 176 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map)USA (NY, CA)

SummaryBefore COVID-19 made "pandemic" a household word in 2020, there was the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Author Lynn Curlee explores the parallels and the difference as he recounts living in New York and Los Angeles when the disease silently took hold of the gay community. As the disease became a full-blown public health crisis, Curlee watched in horror at the devastating progression of HIV/AIDS, the staggering losses endured, and divisive politics and discrimination that cost many people their lives.

With honesty and heart, Curlee tells the stories of the many friends and loved ones that he lost to the disease, including his own life partner. LGBTQ+ rights and access to health care continues to be threatened today. The Other Pandemic is a stark and strong reminder of how history speaks to the present, and this window to the past is a valuable tool for understanding our current cultural landscape.

Review: I don't remember who recommended this one to me (was it Anne?), but thank you. Lynn Curlee tells a story well, starting with COVID-19 and showing the similarities to the AIDS epidemic (smart, give the teens something they know then BAM!). He tells his story honestly and in a forthright manner, not explaining anything away, but making it accessible to adolescents in the 2020s. And ending the book by bringing it back to COVID-19 is genius.

I read this book so quickly, absorbed in Curlee's story and that of his friends from page one. He mixes in cultural, political, medical, and social history smoothly, educating his readers as he exposes them to a horrible time in our nation's history.

This book was also personal as it took me back to the '80s and '90s when I was single and in my 20s and 30s. Unlike the author, I had only 2 people close to me die of AIDS, but it was two too many. I remember getting tested multiple times (no, we did not all behave ourselves and testing was the responsible thing to do). Seeing the AIDS Memorial Quilt was intense, watching the US government pretend that the disease didn't exist was infuriating, and this book captures it all.

I highly recommend this book. If you lived through this era, it will dredge up memories, and if you are younger, I hope it helps you understand.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (Author)--C
  • Alphabet (Title)--O
  • Decolonize--a marginalized story from the 1980s
  • Nonfiction--Memoir/Biography

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