Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir by Lynn Curlee

The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir
Lynn Curlee
Charlesbridge Teen. An Imprint of Charlesbridge Publishing. 2023

Award-winning author and illustrator, Lynn Curlee, (2002 Robert. F. Sibert Honor Book for Brooklyn Bridge), steps away from his usual topics that center on great historic structures and architectural icons to pen a very personal memoir reflecting on his experience of being a gay man during the AIDS epidemic. 

To place the memoir in some context that young people will understand, The Other Pandemic draws some comparisons to COVID-19 - how vast numbers of people were infected from a virus that spread like wildfire. Unlike COVID-19, people lived in "sheer terror" of contracted AIDS. Until after 1995, "a diagnosis of AIDS was an automatic death sentence." 

"Imagine that it is 1960, and you are twelve years old. Imagine life with social media. There is no Instagram or TikTok. Imagine life without smartphones or texting. Imagine what it's like growing up with one phone for you entire family, and it sits on a side table in your living room, with no privacy for personal calls. How about no computers at all? There is no gaming or any other fun or useful things you can do on a laptop or tablet. Televison has only three channels, most people still have black and white TV sets, and there are no remotes. You can listen to recorded music only on tinny-sounding radios or by playing vinyl discs on a turntable. There is no "online." If you want to find information about something, you consult an encyclopedia or go to the library. 

Woven into the text is how Curlee's life was shaped by the AIDS epidemic amist the rise of the LGBTQ+ movement. He also shares how he came to work as an artist, author, and illustrator of books for young people. 

Back matter starts with a moving tribute consisting of brief bio's of friends, and Lyn's partner, John Martin, who all died of AIDS (John Martin died at age 46).  Also included is an epilogue, a brief explanation on the origins of AIDS, an author's note, references of music mentioned in the text, source notes, a selected bibliography, and index. 

A powerful, moving, important book.

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