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Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS' Wildfire…
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Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS' Wildfire Days

by Nancy Bevilaqua

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As it worked out, I read Nancy Bevilaqua’s Holding Breath immediately after rereading a bunch of Jack Kerouac. The juxtaposition of the two makes it easier to explain why Holding Breath is a “must read.” Both writers captured the essence of their subjects with a combination of autobiography and thinly veiled fiction (which they unveiled at the earliest opportunity). Both writers are permanently and inextricably intertwined with their art. We react not only to the story or memoir; we react to the writers as people. As people, they unhesitatingly confess weaknesses and vulnerabilities that leave readers slightly uncomfortable because in America, it’s only cool to reveal enough weakness to make the inevitable happy ending seem poignant. While each writer firmly grounds their story in history, they take care to illuminate the street-level dynamics too often lost in the “official record.” In Holding Breath, you suffer the stares of passers-by, smell the trash in the New York gutter and feel the warmth of an appreciated cup of coffee. The comparison falls apart, however, when it comes to love. Aside from Maggie Cassidy, Kerouacs’ love interests tragically seem more like interests than loves. Nancy and David, however, strike us as 20th century “star-crossed lovers;” the long list of circumstances arrayed against them merely amplifying the longing and eventual grief. Fortunately for us, Nancy fought through and found peace for herself, her family and her readers. Holding Breath is absolutely a “must read.” ( )
  Robert_R._Mitchell | Jul 4, 2013 |
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Last night I dreamed about a kiss that never happened, sixteen years ago.
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