Book Review: My Fabulous Disease: Chronicles of a Gay Survivor by Mark S. King
Jan 19, 2024 by Victoria Noe
I have friends who write in a variety of genres: romance, sci fi/fantasy, biography, horror, sports, children’s picture books; playwrights, too. They have poured their hearts and souls into their work, but they themselves are not obviously present on the page. The ones who write memoirs…that’s a whole different story.
When a friend of mine writes a memoir, I open the book already knowing a lot about them, but I am always, always surprised. Sometimes shocked and occasionally horrified, but in the end, always grateful that they found the courage to share their stories.
Now and then, strangers will admit to me that they want to write a book. I always do my best to be enthusiastic and supportive. Life’s hard enough without being criticized for being brave enough to be that vulnerable. The last few years, I’ve amended my advice if they say the book will be a memoir: I ask them if they’re in therapy. Writing can be therapeutic, but revisiting our past can be an unpredictable emotional journey. We need all the support around us we can gather.
Book Review - Never Silent by Peter Staley
Nov 24, 2021 by Victoria Noe
It’s hard to review a book written by a friend.
You want to be publicly supportive so that others will buy their book. You know the time and effort and challenges that led to words on the pages. You want to like it. Sometimes, that can be a challenge in itself. I’ve read books by friends that were badly written, badly edited. Should I keep my mouth shut and leave the criticism to strangers? Luckily, I did not have to consider that with Peter Staley’s long-anticipated memoir, Never Silent.
Friend Grief and Orlando - Part 2
Jun 22, 2016 by Victoria Noe
As I wrote last week, I had a hard time understanding my feelings when I heard the news of the massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Unlike my response to 9/11 – to watch TV for hours at a time trying to make sense of it – I understood why this happened. My response, though, was something that felt a lot like flashbacks. That’s because it was.
What I witnessed over the next week was a replay of the best of what I refer to as ‘the bad old days’: the early days of the AIDS epidemic. That was when I saw the real power of friendship.
Then, like now, many people in the LGBT community...
Friend Grief and Orlando
Jun 14, 2016 by Victoria Noe
Like most of you, I woke up Sunday morning to the news of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. And although the immediate rush to judgment was that it was a terrorist attack carried out by a young Muslim man, the unfolding truth is more complicated.
As I write this, we’re learning that he was not only infuriated by the sight of two men kissing, but he himself had spent time at the nightclub. He may have had a profile on a gay dating app. The facts are still being revealed. We’ll never really know why.
But one fact is certain: a gay nightclub was targeted. A group of people officially hated by most of the major religions and regularly denounced...
Friend Grief in New York - Part 1
Jun 04, 2014 by Victoria Noe
This is the first of two posts this week recapping my experiences in New York City last week. I was primarily there to be part of the Author Hub at Book Expo America (more about that on Friday). But today I want to tell about my first NYC book signing.Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friendsgrew out of my experience in Chicago’s AIDS community in the late 80s/early 90s. I was a fundraiser, often the only straight person in the room. And though many people asked me why I involved in “that”, I felt a responsibility to do what I could.An unexpected but remarkable result of writing this book has been meeting men in ACT UP (AIDS...
"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
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,...
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...
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...
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
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...
“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...
It’s Time to Get Angry Again
Apr 02, 2012 by Victoria Noe
The late, great Keith HaringI attended the “Beyond Disenfranchised: LGBTQ Community Resilience and Healing” session at the ADEC (Association for Death Education) conference last week. It was my last session of the only day I was able to spend there. Much like the lunchtime networking group on Buddhism, something drew me to this.It was clear from the start that there was frustration in the room. Some of it was directed towards ADEC, and how the LGBTQ community’s experiences (particularly in terms of medical directives and emotional support for end-of-life issues) were not being included in the larger discussions. The panelists were on the front lines, both in terms of the LGBTQ community as a whole and HIV/AIDS services (which are...
Report from ADEC 2012
Mar 30, 2012 by Victoria Noe
ADEC logoI just spent a very busy day at the 2012 ADEC (Association for Death Education and Counseling) Conference in Atlanta.On Thursday morning, I made a presentation – “Building Community for Grieving Friends Online” – about the development and marketing of this blog.My audience was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. No one walked out while I was talking (always an ego-boost for a speaker). It was certainly the only session out of many dozens that dealt specifically with grieving a friend. Early in my talk, I quoted one of my favorite stats:“If you Google ‘grieving the death of a friend’, you will get more hits for grieving a 4-legged friend than a human one.”I remember how shocked I was, about 18 months...