READING IS FUNDAMENTAL
Your monthly roundup of queer literature.
Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors Susan Sontag
When Susan Sontag was diagnosed with breast cancer, she became more sensitive to the language surrounding illness. The metaphors and euphemisms, pitching the ill against their illness in some epic battle, served only to inhibit those who might seek help and acknowledge their vulnerability. As the AIDS pandemic hit, Sontag used her experiences to try and understand the psychology of a community under siege.
Don’t Call Us Dead Danez Smith
“I’m not the kind of black man who dies on the news. / i’m the kind who grows thinner & thinner & thinner / until light outweighs us.” This Forward Prize-winning collection is characterised by volatile, skipping verse with bursts of unexpected joy. Smith’s HIV diagnosis is combined with commentary on the position of black men in America to chronicle the violence meted out upon black bodies.
The Swimming-Pool Library Alan Hollinghurst
Our hero Will’s sexual awakening in Hollinghurst’s first novel happens against the backdrop of the last summer before the AIDS crisis took hold. This is a dark, violent and erotic story, a tale of desperate carnal thirst quenched in the shadows, as Will strikes up an uneasy friendship with an older man who remembers too vividly a world before decriminalisation.
Moxyland Lauren Beukes
Originally published ten years ago, this steampunk futuristic dystopia envisions a slightly too real future vision of Cape Town, where your race, class, health and access to technology determine your position. Amongst a cast of four characters struling against society’s strictures we find Lerato, an AIDS orphan who is resolved to alter her fate.