Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

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Book Review: All The Young Men

Book Review: All The Young Men
Feb 09, 2021 by Victoria Noe
In the LGBT and AIDS communities, she is simply known as ‘The Cemetery Angel’. Many people don’t even know her name, only that in the early days of the epidemic she buried young men who died from AIDS. Men left alone and without hope, by families that shunned them. Her story seemed frozen in time. The real story - the whole story - is infinitely richer and more impressive than that. And it’s finally being told, in an extraordinary memoir, All The Young Men.

What began as a simple question to a dying stranger - “What do you need, honey?” - changed the life of Ruth Coker Burks and the hundreds of people in Arkansas she helped during the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic. Little did she imagine that in a short amount of time, she would not only be caring for the dying, but burying their ashes in chipped cookie jars in her family plots in Files Cemetery. And more. Much more.

Making Plans for 2021: A Leap of Faith

Making Plans for 2021: A Leap of Faith
Jan 05, 2021 by Victoria Noe
If I learned anything in 2020, it was to be flexible. None of my plans for the year happened the way I thought they would. In fact, most of those plans evaporated in a series of heartbreaking emails on March 11. So, like many of you, I had to reimagine my writing business. The truth is that I hadn't set long-term goals; 6-12 months was as long-term as it got. That's on me. I had to ask myself some tough questions about my future, questions that took a few months to answer.

The bottom line was that I wanted to diversify my writing and writing business. I didn't want to be overly dependent on any one activity, whether it was public events or book sales. And that meant I had to learn new skills and upgrade the ones I already had.

The Pandemic Had a Soundtrack

The Pandemic Had a Soundtrack
Nov 19, 2020 by Victoria Noe
No, not this pandemic. The last one.

The audio version of my book - Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community - came out in October. I've heard nothing but praise for the narrator, Donna Allen, which makes me very happy. While I was working on the marketing plan, music kept popping into my head. That's not unusual. A lot of people listen to music while they work. These were more like earworms: songs that played endlessly in my head whether I liked it or not.

The music sparked an idea, which apparently former President Barack Obama has stolen for his own book (I'm kidding, really I am). I decided to create a playlist of songs that evoke the first 15 years of the AIDS epidemic, from 1981-1996, the years without effective treatment or hope. Unfortunately, most of the songs I remembered were just, well, depressing. Creating that kind of list no longer seemed like a good idea.

So I turned to the women who inspire me, women whose stories I shared in my book. What songs instantly remind them of that time: of people, places or events? It didn't take long for a response.

 

How I Found the Perfect Audiobook Narrator

How I Found the Perfect Audiobook Narrator
Oct 22, 2020 by Victoria Noe

The story of Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community has been the story of unexpected and meaningful connections. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when my narrator became one of those. When I signed on with Findaway Voices to produce my audiobook, I had to submit a list of requirements for the narrator. That required me to think about tone, inflections, and mood.

Reflection on COVID-19 - More from Trudy James

Reflection on COVID-19 - More from Trudy James
Jun 05, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Trudy James

As I said last week, Trudy James is one of the most remarkable women in my book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. Her advocacy and activism - in HIV/AIDS and the death and dying communities - was recently honored by AARP Washington. She had so much to say about facing a deadly pandemic, that I decided to share more of her thoughts. I hope you find them comforting, too.

  In addition to the “Speaking of Dying” film and workshops, I often give presentations, workshops, and consultations on the subjects of grief and loss. For many people this is new information. In these “Excited States of America” we have never...

Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Trudy James

Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Trudy James
May 29, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Trudy James

If you've read my book Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, you were probably surprised by the story of Trudy James, a hospital chaplain in Arkansas in the late 1980s. I know her story surprised me, too! She is now a leader in the field of death and dying, as well as grief and loss awareness. In the first of two guest blogs, Trudy shares an email she sent out on March 30, not long after the lock downs began:

I was enjoying a long-anticipated vacation in Italy with my friend, Jane. We were visiting my son and daughter-in-law who were planning to live in Umbria (mid-Italy, not...

A Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Krishna Stone

A Reflection on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Krishna Stone
May 16, 2020 by Victoria Noe
As you can tell by her photo, Krishna Stone possesses a joie de vivre that inspires everyone lucky enough to be around her. It was my pleasure to include her in Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. Though the personal losses have been many, she has found a way to honor her friends and keep fighting...while dancing. "It is time to dance. Who will I dance for tonight who has died of AIDS?" During the 1980s and 90s, when I was volunteering and then becoming an employee at Gay Men Health Crisis, visiting with friends who were living with AIDS and then attending memorial services for those who had died of AIDS, dancing was...

Reflections on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Nancy Duncan

Reflections on COVID-19 - Guest Post by Nancy Duncan
May 01, 2020 by Victoria Noe
Another woman in my book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community, Nancy Duncan, has been living with HIV for going on 35 years, working and volunteering in the HIV field for 22 years.  She’s a New York State Certified peer worker and has been doing HIV test counseling for 13 years with Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.  Nancy also works at the Center for AIDS Research and Treatment at Northwell, where she produces a monthly newsletter and facilitates a medication adherence group.  In addition, she volunteers on the Nassau/Suffolk HIV Health Services and is involved in many other endeavors in her community to stop HIV and end the epidemic.

As a woman...

Why Women's History Month is Like A Treasure Hunt

Why Women's History Month is Like A Treasure Hunt
Mar 02, 2020 by Victoria Noe
I have a friend who posts the same thing on Facebook every morning: “Today is National X Day. Please celebrate responsibly.” He shares commemorations that are sometimes important, often obscure, frequently funny. I look forward to them because they start my day with a smile and a new bit of - sometimes useless - knowledge.

Women’s History Month is like that, too. Just like February’s Black History Month, every day in March brings stories that are new to many and endlessly fascinating. Uncovering those jewels is critical to our understanding of the world. 

This year marks the centennial of the 19th amendment, which finally gave women the right to vote. One hundred years ago, my grandparents were teenagers and young adults. It...

Finding Grace on a Metro Platform

Finding Grace on a Metro Platform
Oct 04, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It's been quite a while since I blogged. The absence was not intentional. Two weeks of travel, the death of one of my dearest friends, and severe bronchitis have brought my daily life to a screeching halt. But in the midst of so much stress, there have been some wonderful moments. None as wonderful as this:

 

I spent the weekend after Labor Day in Washington, DC at the US Conference on AIDS. There was a lot of focus on long-term survivors, as well as how to serve the unique needs of those aging with HIV. As usual, it was an intense 3-½ days, which this year included a book signing in the A&U Magazine booth for the book I’d first started...

Book Review - Nurses on the Inside

Book Review - Nurses on the Inside
Jul 13, 2019 by Victoria Noe
“Not everyone knows what you know.”

That has been a mantra of mine for many years. It has served me well in public speaking, in interviews and in my writing. Nurses on the Inside: Stories of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in NYC by Ellen Matzer and Valery Hughes is a great example of why it’s so important to share what we know with those who don’t.

Things we take for granted today like case management and universal precautions were unheard of before the AIDS epidemic became publicly known in 1981. One of the great strengths of this book is documenting how treatment changed, so that the reader can fully understand the evolution of critical care nursing when confronting this frightening new virus.

They pull no punches,...

HIV Long-Term Survivor Awareness Day

HIV Long-Term Survivor Awareness Day
May 31, 2019 by Victoria Noe
In 2015, this essay won the Christopher Hewitt Award for Creative Nonfiction. I'm sharing it again today, in advance of June 5, which is HIV Long-Term Survivor Day. I never thought of myself as a long-term survivor, but I was assured I fit the definition. 

 

 

"Long-Term Survivor"

It’s only the past few years that that designation has become widely used. Hell, no one expected it would ever be possible. There was a time when my only prayer was to get through a week without reading the obituary of someone I knew or admired from afar.

Since many who have reached that milestone are also baby boomers like me, I’ve taken a special interest in their challenges. During a visit to New York, I...

A Special Women's History Month

A Special Women's History Month
Mar 28, 2019 by Victoria Noe
It’s been almost five years since the idea for my next book popped into my head.

On April 1, 2014, I was at the New York Public Library for a panel discussion: “The Women of ACT UP/NY! Fight Back! Fight AIDS!” A group of accomplished women - straight and lesbians - talked about the things they’d accomplished that changed the AIDS epidemic. The most significant one was arguably a four year battle to change the definition of AIDS to include women. Until 1992, the government and insurance companies defined AIDS by how it presented in men.

I knew most of the stories they told, though many in the audience, including my 19 year old daughter, did not. I remember thinking,...

Another World AIDS Day - Part 2

Another World AIDS Day - Part 2
Dec 08, 2018 by Victoria Noe
Tuesday night I was honored to be on the program for the Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance World AIDS Day event here in Chicago. About twenty people took to the stage to recite poetry, sing, play guitar or piano, tell stories. The mistress of ceremonies was a drag queen. It all felt very familiar and comforting.

Almost thirty years ago, Bonaventure House, their housing program for people with HIV/AIDS, was one of my clients. I wrote government and foundation grants for them. So when I found out they were hosting this event, I wanted to be part of it.

It was also the first time I’ve spoken in front of an audience since my mother’s graveside service in March. I wasn’t...

Another World AIDS Day

Another World AIDS Day
Nov 30, 2018 by Victoria Noe
December 1, 1988

I was in London at a performance of the The Secret of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. At the end of the curtain call, Brett made a brief speech. It was, he explained, the first World AIDS Day, and the ushers were about to circulate around the house with buckets, collecting donations for local AIDS service organizations. I dropped some money in the bucket and filed that idea away, not realizing I’d use it back in Chicago on the second World AIDS Day. And here we are, thirty years later.

I have a lot of friends who are long-term survivors. There was a time when long-term meant a couple of years, not decades. The fact that...

An Embarrassment of Riches

An Embarrassment of Riches
May 31, 2018 by Victoria Noe
My color coded files last fall.

You’d think I’d be used to this by now.

I write nonfiction and over the past eight years I’ve done research on a variety of topics related to my books: moral injury, the AIDS epidemic, 9/11, military procedures, men’s health and always, grief. There is no shortage of material available on the internet, in films and TV shows, in poetry and song lyrics, in clinical trials, books and magazine articles.

One of my guilty pleasures is finding a resource that is both appropriate and obscure. Sometimes they’re found in books that have been out of print for decades; I found one in London last month at Gay’s the Word bookstore.  Sometimes they’re...

The Last Blog Post of 2017

The Last Blog Post of 2017
Dec 21, 2017 by Victoria Noe
Deposit Photos

Like many of you, I’m a bit over-committed these days: presents to wrap (assuming they’re already bought), cards to mail, travel arrangements to finalize.

I started writing this blog post last week. It included a bunch of year-end helpful hints. And then I decided I wasn’t going to do that. Social media is full of year-end helpful hints. What I really needed to do was, well, look back.

Last December I was in rehab for my broken writing hand. I was still doing things with my left hand only: not just personal care but decorating the Christmas tree. Yes, I put on the ornaments and tinsel without breaking anything else, which was kind of a miracle....

Who Cares About Your Story?

Who Cares About Your Story?
Aug 30, 2017 by Victoria Noe
“I can’t believe anyone cares about this.” That was the response from a woman who will be in my next book, Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community. I was on a panel with another writer, who mentioned that her sister-in-law’s involvement in the AIDS community during the dark days of the epidemic might be of interest to me. Her story - which will be in the book - is not just interesting: it’s unique and powerful and almost completely unknown, even among those who have been involved in the cause for decades.

Her reaction to being asked permission to include her in my book was not unusual. Many of the people I’ve interviewed -...

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing
Jun 22, 2017 by Victoria Noe
                   lovingonme.com

If you've read this blog for any length of time,  you know I've spent almost two years working on a new book. Fag Hags. Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community has taken on a life of its own. What started as a nagging idea turned into what I fully admit is an obsession to share important, previously-unknown stories of straight women around the world throughout the history of the epidemic.

Big project, right? I knew from the beginning it would be, but with each passing month it seemed to grow in scope and importance. Strangers around the world offered assistance. Interviewees laughed...

HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day

HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day
May 31, 2017 by Victoria Noe
June 5 is HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, so I’m sharing my essay, "Long-Term Survivor", that won the 2015 Christopher Hewitt Award for Creative Nonfiction from A&U Magazine. Since then I’ve written more and presented on the topic of moral injury in long-term survivors, something that is close to my heart. We can’t help each other until we recognize the challenges. And for me, that meant admitting that I had challenges, too.

 

Long-Term Survivor

It’s only the past few years that that designation has become widely used. Hell, no one expected it would ever be possible. There was a time when my only prayer was to get through a week without reading the obituary of someone I knew or admired from afar.

Since...