Body Counts: A Memoir of Activism, Sex, and Survival by Sean Strub

Body Counts: A Memoir of Activism, Sex, and Survival by Sean Strub
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

As a politics-obsessed Georgetown freshman, Sean Strub arrived in Washington, DC, from Iowa in 1976, with a plum part-time job running a Senate elevator in the US Capitol. He also harbored a terrifying secret: his attraction to men. As Strub explored the capital’s political and social circles, he discovered a parallel world where powerful men lived double lives shrouded in shame.

When the AIDS epidemic hit in the early 1980s, Strub was living in New York and soon found himself attending “more funerals than birthday parties.” Scared and angry, he turned to radical activism to combat discrimination and demand research. Strub takes you through his own diagnosis and inside ACT UP, the organization that transformed a stigmatized cause into one of the defining political movements of our time.
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From the New York of Studio 54 and Andy Warhol’s Factory to the intersection of politics and burgeoning LGBT and AIDS movements, Strub’s story crackles with history. He recounts his role in shocking AIDS demonstrations at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well as at the home of US Sen­ator Jesse Helms. With an astonishing cast of characters, including Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Keith Haring, Bill Clinton, and Yoko Ono, this is a vivid portrait of a tumultuous era.

I wanted a hard-hitting book that would make me think and this one fit the bill.

I’d seen this book on lists at the library and decided I wanted to try it, so I did. This book is well-written and thought-provoking. I can’t imagine going through the things Sean Strub did–seeing friends and lovers die of a disease no one wanted to deal with. He paints a vivid picture of the epidemic and how it wasn’t handled, but how it also affected him as a person. It’s not an easy read. It’s painful in spots because of the emotion involved.

I love how he managed to take his diagnosis and turn it into something positive. He created POZ magazine, despite running into roadblocks.

This is a good, but mentally tough book that should be read by anyone wanting to know more about AIDS or activism. Recommended.

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