Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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"Body Counts" by Sean Strub

"Body Counts" by Sean Strub
Mar 13, 2014 by Victoria Noe
I’m not a fan of memoirs. I find a lot of them to be self-serving justifications for past behavior, spinning a fictional tale that presents the narrator as either a victim or hero. And while AIDS is an issue I’ve been involved with since the 80s, Sean Strub’s Body Counts was not a book I was excited about reading. Strub changed my mind on page 2, when he mentioned that a mutual friend, Jamie Leo, dressed as a priest at ACT UP’s controversial 1989 St. Patricks’ Cathedral demonstration. My mind flashed back to a Halloween party Jamie and I had attended in the mid-70s, and I now found myself connected to Strub’s story in a way I hadn’t anticipated.Body Counts...

Update on Friend Grief and AIDS

Update on Friend Grief and AIDS
Jan 14, 2014 by Victoria Noe
One of the benefits of self-publishing is the ability to revise your books at your discretion.The second book in my series, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends, has been well-received. It recently earned a 5-star review on Readers Favorites and continues to generate impassioned – and positive – reviews on other sites.When I wrote it a year ago, the statistics and resources in the back of the book were current. Time for an update.Around March 1, I will re-release Friend Grief and AIDS with:Updated statistics on HIV and AIDS around the worldAdditional books and films for those who are interestedMore links to organizations devoted to education, prevention, treatment and advocacyIf you have already purchased a copy,...

This Year – and Next - in Friend Grief

This Year – and Next - in Friend Grief
Dec 27, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that this has been quite a year. I think we all have the tendency to look back in late December, and cringe at the thought of all we’d planned to do but didn’t. I started to do that not long ago, but had to stop myself. I was looking at only one part of my goals for this year, and in that category I definitely came up short: I self-published three books instead of six. Yeah, I know, I was a bit too optimistic. But what surprised me more than anything was what I accomplished that was not on my list. And I’ll tell you right now,...

World AIDS Day 2013

World AIDS Day 2013
Dec 01, 2013 by Victoria Noe
In his November 4 review of Time Line Theatre’s revival of The Normal Heart, the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones attempts to put the play in historical context: “AIDS is no longer a death sentence.” If only.While it is true that those newly diagnosed are not given a prognosis of, say, thirty days (like Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club), in the fourth decade of the epidemic, there is still no cure and no vaccine. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), new infections are on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: 13% since 2006. In the past 12 years, new HIV infections have doubled in North African and the Middle East. Worldwide, 1.6 million people...

How to Help A Friend Who’s Dying

How to Help A Friend Who’s Dying
Nov 05, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Since I saw Dallas Buyers Club (my review here) I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Although the main character, Ron Woodroof, is initially focused only on his own survival, eventually the people he helps – especially Rayon – become friends. He is literally helping them stay alive. And that got me thinking: what would I do?Sometimes what we are called upon to do, what we are able to do, seems insignificant: running errands, chauffeuring to doctor’s appointments, cooking meals. All serve a dual purpose: taking the burden of the mundane off the shoulders of someone who needs to focus all their attention and energy on fighting their disease, and also to provide a tangible example of friendship.Not everyone’s good...

"Dallas Buyers Club"

"Dallas Buyers Club"
Oct 29, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Matthew McConaughey (Focus Features)“You’ve got 30 days.”To live.We’ve just met Ron Woodroof, an electrician and rodeo cowboy, who seems to spend an equal amount of time getting drunk and having sex. Suddenly ill, he finds himself in the hospital, being told what was unthinkable for a straight man in 1985: he was HIV positive. “Get your affairs in order,” the doctor tells him. He doesn’t. Instead, his crash course in research about AIDS makes him the most unlikely – and initially, unlikeable - cinematic hero you will even encounter.Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club recounts with great authenticity a moment in history. Rock Hudson had just died. Tens of thousands of non-celebrities had died of AIDS. ACT UP...

What’s New on Friend Grief?

What’s New on Friend Grief?
Aug 27, 2013 by Victoria Noe
I always considered the first day of school to be more like the start of a new year than January 1st: lots of new beginnings and excitement (not to mention shopping for new clothes and supplies). There is certainly a lot of excitement here (though not much shopping)! So, I thought I’d bring you up to date on what’s coming up with Friend Grief in the next month:1.      I’ll be a guest on Madeline Sharples’ websitetomorrow, August 28, talking about how my writing made me an activist - again.2.      Through Labor Day, I’ll donate 25% of the price of the paperback and e-book versions of the second book in the Friend Griefseries, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our...

What Could Be Worse Than A Friend’s Death?

What Could Be Worse Than A Friend’s Death?
Jul 25, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Surviving. Of course we survive. We wouldn’t be here to grieve our friends if we weren’t alive. Sometimes the depth of that grief takes us by surprise, which is one of the reasons why I started this blog and my books.But when I started writing about grieving the death of a friend, I didn’t expect to find that survivor guilt plays such a huge role in the lives of many people.While researching the second book in my series, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends, I learned that one of the biggest issues for long-time HIV+ men is survivor guilt. Like me, they lost a lot of friends: dozens, even hundreds. But because of luck or...

AIDS: Mad as Hell. Again.

AIDS: Mad as Hell. Again.
Jul 05, 2013 by Victoria Noe
(This is a little long, so bear with me) I planned to walk in Chicago’s Gay Pride parade last Sunday. But by the time I got near the staging area to join my group, the pain in my hip was growing worse by the minute. I knew I couldn’t walk, and even riding in the truck would be more than uncomfortable; forget about standing for a couple hours. I bailed just before it started. But before I did, I got mad.It wasn’t my first Pride parade. I rode on the Chicago House float in 1990, when I was on staff there and the AIDS epidemic was going full force. I’d attended the parade, lived on the route, got caught...

ACT UP/NY’s Non-Reunion Reunion

ACT UP/NY’s Non-Reunion Reunion
Jun 18, 2013 by Victoria Noe
Few things get your attention like hearing the news a friend has died. For many of the original members of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the death of Spencer Cox was just such a wake-up call.Keep in mind that these were men and women who lost dozens, if not hundreds, of friends to AIDS. They were on the front lines of the epidemic: educating, advocating, demonstrating, demanding. Some of them carry the AIDS virus themselves, saved by the ‘cocktail’ developed in 1996.So you could forgive them if the numbness of experiencing so many losses would affect their ability to grieve. Similar to the military, you have to put your grief aside because the deaths just keep on coming....

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Jun 04, 2013 by Victoria Noe
I’ve been fortunate to meet a few of my heroes recently, founders of ACT UP. While there were times when I disagreed with their tactics, I never questioned their passion or results.They’ve been there since the beginning, as caregivers and advocates. They’ve been through the wars and now face something just as dangerous as AIDS itself: complacency.AIDS is simply not on the radar for a lot of people anymore. It’s no big deal. So what if you get infected? There are drugs to take. You’ll be fine. If only it were that simple.When the epidemic first began, the arts community suffered a disproportionate number of losses. That was certainly because many gay men were involved in theatre, design, music, dance...

AIDS: Everything Old is New Again

AIDS: Everything Old is New Again
May 02, 2013 by Victoria Noe
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana There is perhaps no more perfect quote to describe the current state of the AIDS epidemic. A close second would be “out of sight, out of mind.”Last week I found myself at a fundraiser for the West Hollywood Public Library Foundation and the proposed AIDS memorial. It was a benefit screening of How to Survive A Plague, the Academy-Award nominated and much-honored 2012 documentary about ACT UP New York and the AIDS epidemic.I spent time with Jim Eigo, a founder of ACT UP NY, who I’d met at their meeting in New York earlier in the month. He participated in a panel discussion that followed the film.What...

Friend Grief and AIDS

Friend Grief and AIDS
Apr 23, 2013 by Victoria Noe
I always knew that one of the books in the Friend Grief series would address the AIDS epidemic. Like many who lived through those early years, it was something that shaped my life. It was, I believe, close to the experience of being in in a war. At least, that’s how it felt.I wasn’t sure what my focus would be for the book. There are already many incredible books about AIDS and ACT UP and the Names Project and other aspects of that time. But I quickly realized that the role friends played, especially in the early years, was critical.We knew we were needed, that we were depended upon to take up the slack for disapproving families and an indifferent...

Thoughts on World AIDS Day

Thoughts on World AIDS Day
Dec 04, 2012 by Victoria Noe
AIDS Memorial QuiltNational Mall, Washington DCIn all honesty, it was a week of AIDS. Early in the week I completed the first draft of the second book in the Friend Grief series: Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends. As the week progressed, that high was sustained by anticipation. I was going to a screening of United in Anger and then to a memorial service, organized by a friend and led by my former pastor.But in between the book draft and Saturday, that anticipation became tempered with frustration. The first World AIDS Day was in 1988: why are we still commemorating it? Why do we still need to commemorate it?By Friday, my frustration had hardened into...

World AIDS Day 2012

World AIDS Day 2012
Nov 30, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Despite the fact that my production schedule has been blown to hell, this week I managed to finish the first draft of the second book in the Friend Grief series: Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends.It’s not the book I thought it was going to be. Whether it is any good at what it is remains to be seen.But what came up time and again – as I re-read classic books by Randy Shilts and Larry Kramer and watched new documentaries on the history of ACT UP – was the frustration and anger that still exists today. And it exists because AIDS still exists.Even the victories have unintended consequences. The AIDS cocktail of drugs that has...

A Look at “Love is the Cure”

A Look at “Love is the Cure”
Oct 19, 2012 by Victoria Noe
From the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.If you or someone close to you has been in a 12-step program, you’re familiar with steps 8 and 9. Singer/songwriter/philanthropist Elton John’s new book, Love is the Cure, documents his climb out of addiction and how he continues to make amends, most importantly through his AIDS charity.If you’re a fan of his, like me, you probably wonder how he managed to come out of the 80’s alive and healthy. So does he.Honestly, the book was a surprise...

"How to Survive a Plague"

Oct 02, 2012 by Victoria Noe
Art by Keith HaringThere’s a moment near the end of How to Survive a Plague, the powerful new documentary about the AIDS epidemic, and specifically, the role of ACT-UP in changing the way drugs are tested and made available in the US.There’s a contentious meeting of ACT-UP New York going on, and playwright/activist Larry Kramer is shown, his face tightening in frustration. Finally he explodes: “Plague! We’re living in a plague! Listen to yourselves!”Living through the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic was like living in a plague, or in a war, because it was both: a health crisis that became a desperate war to save lives.The truly remarkable thing to me about this film is that it exists at all....

Writing About Depressing Stuff

Writing About Depressing Stuff
Sep 18, 2012 by Victoria Noe
I’ve written before about how writing about grief can affect you, but I think it’s worth revisiting, in a little broader sense.There are people who cringe when I tell them what most of my writing is about. I understand their feeling that grief is “depressing”. But there are many whose work could be classified that way:            Hospice volunteers            AIDS outreach workers            Oncologists            First respondersI had a friend whose job was to fire people in her company (I hate “lay off” – let’s call it what it is). I thought she had an incredibly depressing job, but she didn’t think so. She was so considerate about how she handled each person that they often wound up sympathizing with her.I’ve also met...

“I Pray That I Am The Last”

“I Pray That I Am The Last”
Jul 10, 2012 by Victoria Noe
When a friend dies, many of us struggle with a question: How can I make sure they’re not forgotten? Not everyone is a celebrity, whose artistic creations or legislative record or exploits on the field of battle will be recounted in history books and HBO specials.Most of the time when a friend dies, they’re just ordinary people, like us. In a world of billions, their uniqueness can be forgotten.Twenty-five years ago, San Francisco recorded its 1,000th death from AIDS. As part of the annual candlelight march commemorating the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, marchers were asked to make signs, each with the name of someone they knew who had died of AIDS.Remember, this was a time of...

Remembering Friends: “Creativity and Crisis – Day 3

Remembering Friends: “Creativity and Crisis – Day 3
Jul 07, 2012 by Victoria Noe
I’d intended to get to the Smithsonian Folkways Festival on the National Mall early today, to help unfold the Quilt. But 9:00am came and went, as the organizers discussed the advisability of displaying the Quilt in ever more oppressive heat. While they did, someone suggested I go to the Quilting Bee tent. That’s where panels were being made by volunteer quilters during the Festival. I was welcomed into the tent, and I did indeed unfold Quilt panels. But these were panels in various stages of completion.Each was different, as unique as the person they memorialized: Bible verses, song lyrics, photos, messages. The quilters used scraps of fabric, pens, colored thread and other materials to create each panel. I unfolded...