There’s a story that won’t let go of me.
Some days, this book takes the form of a novel. On other days, it has flirted with being a collection of linked short stories and at times, it feels like it wants to be a memoir.
You won’t find this book on our shelves here at the Library (yet) because I’ve written and rewritten this story for … well, let’s just say it has been a few years. Like most things in our lives, it is a SomedayMaybeLifeIsntGettingAnyShorter work in progress.
As those of you who are writers know, sometimes it takes longer than we’d like for a story to find its voice and its path. And that’s where I am with this novel/short story collection/memoir of mine, which focuses on a family losing a loved one to AIDS in the midst of the epidemic.
So what to do when the words won’t come and the story won’t allow you to give up?
You write. And you read.
You read the stories of love taken too soon. You discover Mark Doty through his eloquent poetry and his gorgeous memoirs. You listen to Dog Years on audio and you — admittedly, not much of a dog person — cry on your commute home.
You read Paul Monette, who reminds you that we are all on Borrowed Time.
You read the impossible, improbable love story of Marion Winik and her husband Tony in First Comes Love.
You read Randy Shilts’ And The Band Played On and you wonder how different things would have been if better decisions had been made by the people in charge.
You read Michael Cunningham and you believe that every single one of his fictional characters are real.
You read Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, and your admiration for the incredible quality of what is truly groundbreaking YA (young adult) and teen literature today increases exponentially. You are inspired and intimidated to add your words to that.
You read and you read some more. You realize that you have so much you want to and need to read and learn about the LGBTQ history, the sociology, about those who have gone before and those who are here now. You stand in awe at the shelves, at the words they hold, the lifetimes and legacies they capture. There is so much, and at the Library it is yours; it is all right here.
And then you realize why your story – and all of these stories – won’t let go.
It’s because you owe it to those whose stories have already been told and those whose epilogues were written too soon. It’s because you are a privileged white, straight, married female and you have an obligation to be an ally and a voice for those who are silenced and silent, and who don’t have the same legal rights as you do because of who they happen to love. It’s because there is a new generation emerging with opportunities that yours — the one growing up silenced, the one learning about love amid the stigma and fear — never did until it was sometimes too late.
“There is a nearly perfect balance between the past and the future.
As we become the distant past, you become a future few of us would have imagined.”
~ page 1 of Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan