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addabook - The Great Believers
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The Great Believers
Rebecca Makkai
read on April 6, 2019

This book was profoundly sad and eye opening. I knew that AIDS was a crisis in a strictly academic sense. Which, I don't mean to make sound like I was well-informed academically about it, I absolutely wasn't, but I mean that I knew it was bad, I knew that it started in the 80's and that for a long time was a death sentence, and I knew it particularly affected homosexual communities (particularly early on). But I had never in my life given any thought at all to what the experience of living in that time, in those communities was like.

Makkai conveys the humanist experience of AIDS in a deeply affecting way. Particularly, the crossroads of the gay experience when, at a time in history where (really for the first time) it is becoming just tolerable to exist, to be out, to live and love and actually be optimistic about a future where you aren't ashamed of who you are - right then - a horrible virus begins arbitrarily infecting and killing everyone you know. What is that like? How did that feel at the time, before anyone understood the disease? Before there was any practical treatment for it? What is the experience of being positive? Of loving someone who is? Of surviving?

It's hard to read, and I'm ashamed to have never really thought about societal impact that AIDS had. This is a beautiful book, written perfectly. 

Author Bio:

Rebecca Makkai is the Chicago-based author of the novels The Great Believers, The Hundred-Year House, and The Borrower, as well as the short story collection Music for Wartime. Her short fiction won a 2017 Pushcart Prize, and was chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2008-2011). The recipient of a 2014 NEA fellowship, Makkai is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University, and she is the Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago.