Early AIDS Literature, 1981-1988

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The earliest AIDS literature is often testimonial. The earliest gay AIDS novel is Paul Reed’s Facing It (1984). This novel describes the beginning of the AIDS panic in 1981-1982. Reed uses simple medical terminology and the AIDS-afflicted gay male character rapidly deteriorates, which was common in that time. Barbara Peabody’s The Screaming Room: A Mother’s Journal of Her Son’s Struggle with AIDS (1986) offers a testimonial tribute to her son. She cared for him in the final stages of his illness and her loving description testifies to her son’s fine qualities as a man and a son. Paul Monette’s Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog (1988) uses poetry to highlight Monette’s relationship with his lover, who died of AIDS in 1986. This poetry serves as a testament to their bond throughout the trials of maintaining a relationship over an extended period of time and during a terminal illness. Monette also produced Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir (1988), which chronicles his own struggle with AIDS while his lover dies of AIDS. This autobiographical work received critical acclaim and was widely read.

Additional works of fiction include Alice Hoffman’s best-selling novel At Risk (1988), which provided a first exposure to the specter of AIDS for many middle-class suburban readers. This novel has a child protagonist who is infected through a blood transfusion. Young adult author M. E. Kerr published Night Kites in 1986, which has the protagonist trying to come to terms with his gay older brother’s HIV-positive status. Another young adult novel is Good-Bye Tomorrow (1987) by Gloria Miklowitz. Again, the protagonist has AIDS as a result of a...

(The entire section is 701 words.)