In the 1980s, the HIV epidemic was making its way across the globe. It was still widely seen as a disease largely impacting gay men. The fear and stigma surrounding the disease made it difficult for an already marginalized community to find the support and care it needed.
Rebecca Makkai joins The Morning Shift to discuss her new book, The Great Believers. It takes us to Chicago in the mid 1980s, into a group of friends, gay men and people who love them, as they grapple with the havoc the HIV crisis is causing in their lives. It also moves forward in time…into the 2000s and explores a mother/daughter relationship, how we survive trauma, and how we remember those we’ve lost.
On writing about AIDS survivors in the present day:
Rebecca Makkai: Originally, I was just gonna set my book in the ‘80s. And as I researched, and as I talked to people, I realized more and more that what was fascinating me as I sat across from someone and listened to them was what’s happened in the intervening decades, and what it looks like to sit here now…having been handed a death sentence thirty years ago. And here you still are.
On remembering the AIDS crisis through fiction:
Makkai: It is shocking to me that there’s no big nonfiction book about the AIDS crisis in Chicago….We need more nonfiction, but we also need the fiction—we also need the art, we need the theater, we need the music, because for so many people that’s going to be their way in…and for people who lived through it, it’s their way out as well. It’s catharsis.
GUEST: Rebecca Makkai, author
LEARN MORE: Rebecca Makkai’s website