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Resources in LGBTQ History in the United States: 1900 to 2019 (November 2019): 1980–2000

by Lisa N. Johnston


In Sharon Leslie’s March 2016 bibliographic essay for this publication, “HIV/AIDS: A Postmodern Epidemic and Its Depiction,” the Georgia State University librarian for public health and health sciences presents an analysis of the literature on the topic from science to history to the arts. Her remarkable essay is an essential starting point for librarians developing materials holdings on this disease and the issues surrounding it. Particularly useful for the study of LGBTQ history are the works cited in the sections “The Sociology of AIDS” and “Cultural Responses.”  This section discusses some resources that have been published since the date of publication of her essay, as well as a few lesser-known titles.

Sarah Schulman is an award-winning author, activist, professor, and one of the coordinators with the New York Public Library of the essential and continuing project ACT-UP Oral History Archive. Her 1994 memoir, My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life during the Reagan/Bush Years, traces her involvement with the Lesbian Avengers and ACT-UP, and highlights her work as a journalist/activist during this pivotal time in LGBTQ political history. How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, by David France, was awarded the 2017 Stonewall Book Award for Non-Fiction. It is a riveting, cinematic account of the activism and medical history surrounding those directly involved, the activists, and patients who successfully battled “Big Pharma.” France’s book followed his 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague which focuses on the early years of ACT-UP and is a recommended supplement to the book.

Angels in America: Part One: The Millennium Approaches and Part Two: Perestroika, by Tony Kushner, is an essential work in the performing arts produced during and about the AIDS epidemic in the US. It is available on DVD and streaming on HBO. Tony Kushner’s play and its impact is the subject of Daniel Kois and Isaac Butler’s oral history, The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America. Historian Martin Duberman pays tribute to singer Michael Callen and the poet Essex Hemphill with biographies of them as other members of the arts community lost to AIDS in the 1980s and 90s with Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS. Avram Finkelstein’s After Silence: A History of AIDS through Its Images explores the iconic protest graphics produced by ACT-UP, collectives, and individual artists. The Columbus Museum of Art’s exhibition catalog, Art after Stonewall: 1969–1989 is another source for visual arts during the first decade of the AIDS crisis and the 1970s.

Works Cited