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Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993

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One of O, the Oprah Magazine's 32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021 A masterpiece of historical research and intellectual analysis that creates many windows into both a vanished world and the one that emerged from it, the one we live in now. --Alexander Chee Twenty years in the making, Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show is the most comprehensive One of O, the Oprah Magazine's 32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021 A masterpiece of historical research and intellectual analysis that creates many windows into both a vanished world and the one that emerged from it, the one we live in now. --Alexander Chee Twenty years in the making, Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show is the most comprehensive political history ever assembled of ACT UP and American AIDS activism In just six years, ACT UP, New York, a broad and unlikely coalition of activists from all races, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds, changed the world. Armed with rancor, desperation, intelligence, and creativity, it took on the AIDS crisis with an indefatigable, ingenious, and multifaceted attack on the corporations, institutions, governments, and individuals who stood in the way of AIDS treatment for all. They stormed the FDA and NIH in Washington, DC, and started needle exchange programs in New York; they took over Grand Central Terminal and fought to change the legal definition of AIDS to include women; they transformed the American insurance industry, weaponized art and advertising to push their agenda, and battled--and beat--The New York Times, the Catholic Church, and the pharmaceutical industry. Their activism, in its complex and intersectional power, transformed the lives of people with AIDS and the bigoted society that had abandoned them. Based on more than two hundred interviews with ACT UP members and rich with lessons for today's activists, Let the Record Show is a revelatory exploration--and long-overdue reassessment--of the coalition's inner workings, conflicts, achievements, and ultimate fracture. Schulman, one of the most revered queer writers and thinkers of her generation, explores the how and the why, examining, with her characteristic rigor and bite, how a group of desperate outcasts changed America forever, and in the process created a livable future for generations of people across the world.


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One of O, the Oprah Magazine's 32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021 A masterpiece of historical research and intellectual analysis that creates many windows into both a vanished world and the one that emerged from it, the one we live in now. --Alexander Chee Twenty years in the making, Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show is the most comprehensive One of O, the Oprah Magazine's 32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021 A masterpiece of historical research and intellectual analysis that creates many windows into both a vanished world and the one that emerged from it, the one we live in now. --Alexander Chee Twenty years in the making, Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show is the most comprehensive political history ever assembled of ACT UP and American AIDS activism In just six years, ACT UP, New York, a broad and unlikely coalition of activists from all races, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds, changed the world. Armed with rancor, desperation, intelligence, and creativity, it took on the AIDS crisis with an indefatigable, ingenious, and multifaceted attack on the corporations, institutions, governments, and individuals who stood in the way of AIDS treatment for all. They stormed the FDA and NIH in Washington, DC, and started needle exchange programs in New York; they took over Grand Central Terminal and fought to change the legal definition of AIDS to include women; they transformed the American insurance industry, weaponized art and advertising to push their agenda, and battled--and beat--The New York Times, the Catholic Church, and the pharmaceutical industry. Their activism, in its complex and intersectional power, transformed the lives of people with AIDS and the bigoted society that had abandoned them. Based on more than two hundred interviews with ACT UP members and rich with lessons for today's activists, Let the Record Show is a revelatory exploration--and long-overdue reassessment--of the coalition's inner workings, conflicts, achievements, and ultimate fracture. Schulman, one of the most revered queer writers and thinkers of her generation, explores the how and the why, examining, with her characteristic rigor and bite, how a group of desperate outcasts changed America forever, and in the process created a livable future for generations of people across the world.

30 review for Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993

  1. 4 out of 5

    Morgan M. Page

    "[...] in a public conversation that I held with Larry Kramer at OutWrite in Boston in the 1990s, I suggested, in front of an audience, that the next time Larry was called by the media, he could refer them to a person of color or a woman in ACT UP. And Larry responded, 'But Sarah, shouldn't we use our best people?'" The history of AIDS activism has been dominated by the image of the white, middle-to-upper class gay man, as seen in fictional dramas like Angels in America and distorted documentarie "[...] in a public conversation that I held with Larry Kramer at OutWrite in Boston in the 1990s, I suggested, in front of an audience, that the next time Larry was called by the media, he could refer them to a person of color or a woman in ACT UP. And Larry responded, 'But Sarah, shouldn't we use our best people?'" The history of AIDS activism has been dominated by the image of the white, middle-to-upper class gay man, as seen in fictional dramas like Angels in America and distorted documentaries like How to Survive a Plague. Rank and file ACT UP NY member turned AIDS historian Sarah Schulman provides a long overdue corrective to this narrative in her magnus opus Let the Record Show: a Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993. Drawing on the nearly 200 interviews she conducted for the ACT UP Oral History Project with surviving members of ACT UP NY, Sarah provides us a rich, polyvocal understanding of the movement from the people who lived through it's most charged years. And in doing so, she restores to history the many women, people of colour, trans people, and even fake grifters who populated and lead the most successful social movement of its time. This is more than just a dauntingly large history book. Ever the activist, Sarah is keenly aware that future social movements will need the knowledge and skills that coalesced to make ACT UP successful. Throughout the book, Sarah focuses on drawing out in detail how activism works: how affinity groups were structured, how actions were planned and undertaken, and what too can be learned from ACT UP's mistakes and failures. This is, without doubt, the single most useful political book I have ever read, providing a full blueprint for how to run a social movement. There simply can never be another book like this, at least about ACT UP. Nothing could ever approach how definitive it is, and Sarah's work will continue to be used for generations to come — both by scholars and by activists. We are lucky, too, that her finely honed skills as a novelist make this sweeping epic a surprisingly fast and enjoyable read. Organized by theme, rather than chronology, she allows us to get deep on the specifics of actions and affinity groups, getting to know — through their own voices — the everyday people, united in anger, who did the work. This choral approach to narrators allows different versions of events to stand up side by side, as well as disagreements, fractures, and frustrations. Let the Record Show is a monumental work whose importance to history, to contemporary organizing, and to future activism cannot be overstated.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    Sarah Schulman's landmark "Let the Record Show" is so much more than a historical accounting of the AIDS crisis: it's oral history meets activism road map that pays homage to one of the last successful US activist organizations: ACT UP. Founded in 1987 by several enraged people with AIDS and their allies, ACT UP proceeded to define an era of American history with its radical and novel forms of civil disobedience, new ideas surrounding patient-centered pharmaceutical testing, and social justice in Sarah Schulman's landmark "Let the Record Show" is so much more than a historical accounting of the AIDS crisis: it's oral history meets activism road map that pays homage to one of the last successful US activist organizations: ACT UP. Founded in 1987 by several enraged people with AIDS and their allies, ACT UP proceeded to define an era of American history with its radical and novel forms of civil disobedience, new ideas surrounding patient-centered pharmaceutical testing, and social justice initiatives that redefined everything from housing to fundraising. Schulman has for the last 20 years meticulously interviewed the hundreds of surviving former members of ACT UP and weaves these interviews together with her own accounts of participating in ACT UP to tell these stories. And in doing so she carefully ensures that varied class, race, and gender experiences aren't just highlighted but are centered in the tale of an organization that relied as much on its white and gay members as it did on its Black and brown, lesbian, and straight women members. "Let the Record Show" is truly a groundbreaking book; Schulman masterfully weaves together stories from the past to advise movements in the present and future. In this book we see the powerful role history can play in shaping the tactics we use in our present world to fight for social change. "Let the Record Show" is a book that each and every one of us must read. Don't miss out on this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Scott Pomfret

    This is a sloppy sprawling glorious mess of a book focused deliberately and narrowly only on the NYC chapter of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) during the years 1987-93. It is based nearly entirely on a set of oral histories conducted by the author with surviving participants of ACT-UP NYC. Part love letter to the author’s querulous inspiring bickering ACT-UP compatriots and part pedantic how-to guide for the activists of 2021 and beyond, this history is suffused with love, affection, a This is a sloppy sprawling glorious mess of a book focused deliberately and narrowly only on the NYC chapter of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) during the years 1987-93. It is based nearly entirely on a set of oral histories conducted by the author with surviving participants of ACT-UP NYC. Part love letter to the author’s querulous inspiring bickering ACT-UP compatriots and part pedantic how-to guide for the activists of 2021 and beyond, this history is suffused with love, affection, admiration, and heart wrenching loss. There are flaws, some of which stem from the nature of its construction from oral history. First, it is tediously repetitious in some parts. Second, its pedantic tone in prescribing why ACT-UP worked for future activists is super-offputting. Third, the author frequently uses words in awkward ways (e.g., repeatedly referencing“immunity” to treatments when she seems to mean “resistance”) which can be jarring. Fourth, there isn’t any real presence to objectivity or evenhandedness, and all kinds of old scores seem to be rehashed. The audiobook in particular suffers from poor production and a narrator who butchers the English language by mispronouncing a dozen words (e.g., plenary, eschew, preface, homogenous). She’s done no favors by the producers whose awkward edits and splices making the narrator sound as if she’s suffering from a seizure. It’s also impossible to distinguish what’s quote and narration in the audio version. The author doesn’t quite succeed in disciplining the oral histories into a coherent whole, but she sure gives it a yeoman effort, and her narrative strategy, which is at first difficult to comprehend, eventually makes sense and she covers enormous ground with it. Yet the story is glorious. Self-taught amateurs school the experts. Small numbers of activists sway Big Pharma. Many David v Goliath encounters. Many participants recalled the period as the best time of their lives, though many also fell off the rails afterward losing themselves to suicide or drugs as a result of the trauma of unceasing loss. The author attempts valiantly to re-center the contributions of women and people of color and of lower economic means. Whether she fully succeeds is unclear. Perhaps because of their privilege, white men’s stories predominate. The author also attempts—for philosophical reasons—to tell the story without a dominant hero, yet when she talks of individual actions, she attributes them mainly to a small group of heroes throughout. This is in the end an inspiring book and one cannot help but wonder what glories many of these dead might have accomplished. At the same time, it seemed like the crisis itself brought the extraordinary out of ordinary people and caused lives to intersect that otherwise would have been at a distance. Oh, and one more thing: Anthony Fauci was not nearly so popular back then as he is now.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Corvus

    I feel so grateful to have read Sarah Schulman's "Let the Record Show" for a wide variety of personal and communal reasons. Buckle up, this is a long review of a long book that could never be long enough to capture my appreciation but I will try. I consider myself to be very interested in radical and LGBTQ history. It is frustrating how the tellings of history often get so muddled and distorted over time, sometimes intentionally, but often just by accident and well intentioned ignorance. For inst I feel so grateful to have read Sarah Schulman's "Let the Record Show" for a wide variety of personal and communal reasons. Buckle up, this is a long review of a long book that could never be long enough to capture my appreciation but I will try. I consider myself to be very interested in radical and LGBTQ history. It is frustrating how the tellings of history often get so muddled and distorted over time, sometimes intentionally, but often just by accident and well intentioned ignorance. For instance, have you heard that Stonewall was mainly trans women of color throwing rocks at cops? Usually people will name drop Sylvia Rivera or Marsha P Johnson when they state this. However, if you watch, read, and/or listen to the vastly available interviews by both of them, they will tell you this is not true. In this interview, Sylvia states: "The Stonewall wasn’t a bar for drag queens. Everybody keeps saying it was. So this is where I get into arguments with people. They say, “Oh, no, it’s always a drag queen bar and it was a black bar. No, Washington Square Bar was the drag queen bar. Okay, you could get into the Stonewall if they knew you and there were only a certain amount of drag queens that were allowed into the Stonewall at that time. We had just come back in from, um, from Washington, my first lover and I. We were passing forged checks and what not. But we were making good money. And so, well, let’s go to the Stonewall. Let’s do our thing. Let’s go there, you know. Actually it was the first time that I had even been to friggin’ Stonewall." Someone behind Sylvia threw the first bottle. So, she becomes merely a token in some of today's newer narratives by people who are happy to invoke her name in an argument but haven't ever listened to her voice. Do you know about the Compton's Cafeteria Uprising? That fits the narrative of trans women of color fighting back against cops and injustice, but it's not as well known precisely because it was actually trans women of color making up a large majority of people there and the people with the least power rarely get to write history. Discovering these things in my search for knowledge of the past has always left me eager to look things up when people- particularly those of a generation who were not alive when certain events happened, make sweeping or reductive statements about history. I have sought out multiple books and documentaries about or including ACT UP and none of them came even close to Schulman's book. In fact, while reading it, I often felt like I had been lied to for so long. Schulman addresses certain histories in the book in more detailed ways. But, in short, if you've learned that ACT UP was "run" by a gay man who was the "leader," that the group belonged to one of these said men who near single handedly started it, or that women were not/barely involved aside from in caregiving, that was false. If you didn't realize how IV drug users were a huge part of the death toll, who had far less access to community and resources, and who also joined the movement, the truth was omitted. If you have been told that a few white gay men lifted up as celebrities were what ACT UP was, that was a lie. If you know little of the vast diversity of very effective tactics used by ACT UP and the organization that went into them, it's a shame, and so was I. Have you ever heard that AIDS was first discovered in the early 1900s, long before it was called a "gay disease?" Did you know that Haitian prisoners with AIDS were kept in Guantanamo Bay? Me neither. Did you know that even while people were dying in horrific ways around and inside ACT UP, people still managed to have fun, find joy, find love, and live the best lives they could in the circumstances? Probably not because we rarely talk about that part of history. Even the limited or misleading histories still offered so much importance and knowledge, don't get me wrong. I don't mean to say they're useless. But, Schulman wrote this book to share what really happened and to lift up voices and organizing efforts that most of us who weren't there never knew existed- even if we've sought the history out. The labor of the huge amount of interviews alone that went into creating this is difficult to even imagine. The task of whittling this book down to over 700 pages is an immense one. I found this book to be an experience from cover to cover. The whole design of this heavy weight of knowledge was excellent. I recommend getting your hands on the physical book, even if you're usually an ebook or audiobook person (which are both also available if physical books are not accessible to you.) The cover art and images from a time before the digital age all add so much to the book. I like that Schulman didn't try to make it a linear story. It would have been impossible to do so. Even without being linear, the book is still fantastically organized. I could always tell whose interview I was reading, what general time period it was in and what else may have been going on, and so on. One of the things I learned in the biggest way was how a group of people made up of highly diverse backgrounds and identities managed to be so successful. When we discussed this in VINE Book Club, many of us mentioned trying to figure out how to mobilize people the way ACT UP did on other issues such as climate change. AIDS and climate change were/are causing endless unjustified and avoidable suffering and death, but climate change is such an abstract thing to many people in a way that AIDS was not. The level of detail this book goes into about what it was like to have people in and outside the organization dying horrific deaths captures something we don't usually discuss in histories of illness and disability. But, these details are critical to truly seeing the picture of what things were like during the time period covered in this book. There was also the reality that ACT UP allowed people to be messy, flawed, to have big disagreement, and room for illness and care giving by using affinity group models and parallel organizing structures. I asked Sarah Schulman at our book club if she had any advice on how to deal with big conflicts within movements of today. I will likely butcher this and not include all of what she said. But, it was something to the tune of taking things piece by piece, rather than focusing on abstract rules or flattening an organization or movement to only doing things one way. When I mentioned that some white single issue animal rights people have mentioned allowing plant based fash (yes, unfortunately this is a thing however small) into movements and how to deal with that question of knowing where to draw the line. Her answer was basically that if you don't want to organize with someone, don't. And don't use valuable time fighting the abstract. Is a fascist trying to organize with you on a project right now? The answer is no, I have only seen this phenomena on the internet. And these answers were so simple and helped me realize how much valuable time I may have squandered on enforcing these sort of rules and hypotheticals inside my head. Schulman shared a lot more with us as well, but I have a horrible memory and may have already quoted things wrong so I won't attempt to detail them all here. I was very grateful she was able to join the humble book club when she's probably massively busy. Another theme in the histories detailed in this book is that of growth and transformation. Would you ever work with a gentrifier? ACT UP turned a gentrifier into a lifelong housing activist. Do you think of gay cis men when you think of reproductive justice? Many gay men in ACT UP worked with women in ACT UP and joined the pro choice actions and movements during that time as well. There were youth caucuses, drug user advocacy, and people doing work with prisoners of all stripes. There were so many young people brand new to activism learning the ropes and doing profound work. There is also a lot of interesting discussion of how privilege was a double edged sword in ACT UP. White gay men with privilege and connections were able to get ACT UP access to people and agencies that women and/or people of color never could have. But, at the same time, this risked assimilation politics and white male agendas dominating the actions taken after those connections were made. There is also a lot of information on how Anthony Fauci fit into this history and it was interesting to read how problematic he was around AIDS work given how he is valorized by so many today. I was left wondering how much the AIDS crisis affected him over time and how it affected his approach to COVID-19. It would be great to have him read this book and respond, but I doubt he will make time for that (understandable during a global pandemic.) Last, I want to say that I am alive because of the people in ACT UP featured in this book. They made the world safer and more accessible for me as a Queer and Trans person- because ACT UP was about much more than AIDS. But, there is another aspect this book helped me internalize that I initially did not, even though I should have from talking to friends who were there. I was an IV drug user over 16 years ago and was an addict for many years. Without the clean needle programs that ACT UP members put their lives on the line for- which were thankfully legal by the time I needed them, I would very likely have ended up with Hepatitis C and/or HIV as well as the other issues such as abscesses and sometimes deadly and permanently disablling infections. I don't talk about my addiction history super publicly like this very much, but it's also not a secret. I am stating it here to stress that I am not being hyperbolic when I say that ACT UP not only saved and improved countless lives during the history of this book, but they have continued to do so for all future generations- some of whom joined the ACT UP chapters of today. I can't recommend this book enough. It is a gift to LGBTQ people- especially those who weren't present for ACT UP's organizing and activity. But, it is also critical reading for everyone else- especially organizers of all stripes. I don't know how else to put my gratitude into words. This was also posted to my blog.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Want a comprehensive, informative, and moving account of the influential ACT UP New York organization during the early days and peak of the AIDS crisis. The inclusion of women activists is especially welcomed; I doubt many know that the original definition of AIDS did not include women's symptoms, which can differ from men's symptoms, as they often do in serious health situations. This is a remarkable and much needed book, as the generation that lived through this is aging, survivor Read if you: Want a comprehensive, informative, and moving account of the influential ACT UP New York organization during the early days and peak of the AIDS crisis. The inclusion of women activists is especially welcomed; I doubt many know that the original definition of AIDS did not include women's symptoms, which can differ from men's symptoms, as they often do in serious health situations. This is a remarkable and much needed book, as the generation that lived through this is aging, survivors are dealing with the longterm affects of HIV/AIDS and the early medications, and are once again vulnerable during a new pandemic. Librarians/booksellers: Although this is a massive book, it's very compelling and intimate. A must read for anyone wanting an in-depth look at what it was like to live through this devastating era. Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kobi

    Absolutely incredible. So much gay and queer fire and rage. And as a person with chronic illness, so much that we have to be grateful for. Every other page contains lessons that I wish to transmit to every organizer taking on dominant institutions and a sleepwalking public. Understanding the sheer desperation of ACT UP and the horizontal creativity that led them to save lives, understanding the fraught racial and gender based interpersonal dynamics and answering the main question of the inside/ou Absolutely incredible. So much gay and queer fire and rage. And as a person with chronic illness, so much that we have to be grateful for. Every other page contains lessons that I wish to transmit to every organizer taking on dominant institutions and a sleepwalking public. Understanding the sheer desperation of ACT UP and the horizontal creativity that led them to save lives, understanding the fraught racial and gender based interpersonal dynamics and answering the main question of the inside/outside strategy: “who’s in the room,” and understanding the importance of mutual aid snd community care - these are lessons that we cannot bear forgetting. Above all - remember that when they come out with the horses SIT DOWN. HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT

  7. 4 out of 5

    Luis Marchese

    Easily the best book I’ve read so far this year. The insights — from strategy, direct action tactics, and fundraising, to constituency organizing, decision making, and structure — are all SO helpful in diagnosing challenges in the Left today. Schulman’s commitment to write a “history for activists today” did not disappoint.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I received this as an ARC from NetGalley. This book provides new context and analysis of the rise, development, and eventual splintering of ACT UP. I still don’t love Schulman’s tendency to insert her own personal stories in historical text- but you have to give her credit for *being* there. Oh and it is real weird reading about one pandemic in the middle of another. I thought Dr. Fauci got a fairly even handed portrait here despite not being one of the interviewees for the book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Gillman

    This is a hard and often heartbreaking read, but absolutely essential history — with a lot of relevant lessons for modern-day activism related to healthcare. I hope more people spend time with it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ang

    This is a fascinating history of ACT UP, but it's also (as so many reviewers have noted) a handbook on how to use direct action to make marginalized voices heard. (I also think it's a good illustration of what happens when privilege gets in the way of progress, as the split of ACT UP reveals a lot about what happens when wealthy white men get what they want and stop fighting.) It's A LOT though, so only read when you're ready to really do the work of reading a heavy non-fiction book. Thanks to Net This is a fascinating history of ACT UP, but it's also (as so many reviewers have noted) a handbook on how to use direct action to make marginalized voices heard. (I also think it's a good illustration of what happens when privilege gets in the way of progress, as the split of ACT UP reveals a lot about what happens when wealthy white men get what they want and stop fighting.) It's A LOT though, so only read when you're ready to really do the work of reading a heavy non-fiction book. Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher for the ARC.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Topical now and informative if you don’t know the history of the LGBTQ struggles in NYC. Or anywhere else to be fair. Inform yourself with the facts rather than clips from social media.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kaleb

    "I have come to understand that, for one thing, AIDS activist history has been mistakenly placed in the trajectory of gay male history. I can understand why this connection would be made: gay men were significantly victimized—individually and collectively—by the criminal indifference of the U.S. government [...] It was the gay male media that focused on AIDS, and activists met in gay-controlled and gay-funded spaces. But my research shows that the ideologies and values that served as the foundat "I have come to understand that, for one thing, AIDS activist history has been mistakenly placed in the trajectory of gay male history. I can understand why this connection would be made: gay men were significantly victimized—individually and collectively—by the criminal indifference of the U.S. government [...] It was the gay male media that focused on AIDS, and activists met in gay-controlled and gay-funded spaces. But my research shows that the ideologies and values that served as the foundations of the applied practices of AIDS activism did not only come from the trajectory of gay male history." (14-15) "Another powerful reason ACT UP has been awkwardly shoved into the gay male historical trajectory is that it was misrepresented over and over by the national media as exclusively, instead of predominantly, white and male. This is a significant difference because women and people of color transform the movements that they choose to join. And this enormous influence was hidden by corporate control of representation" (16) Sarah Schulman's political history of ACT UP NY serves as a necessary correction to the historical record not just of the representation of that group, but of the AIDS Crisis more generally. Taking the history out of the gay-historical corner and into to light of other movements and politics, examined with insights and personal history from the interviews of the ACT UP Oral History Project and the author's own critical assessments and understandings, this book finally democratizes the history needed to understand how to make change in the present. One of the most important things done in this book is putting the history of ACT UP and PWA self-empowerment alongside that of the reproductive rights and anti-sterilization abuse movements, and centering the independent and coalitional work of Black, API, and Latino (with careful considerations of the specificities of Puerto Rican, Latino and Chicano culture history and politics) people in ACT UP. As a white gay male reader I found this book to be an incredible intervention. I had read Schulman's earlier works, watched United in Anger, and read other articles and a few books about the crisis, such as Sean Strub's memoir, and David France's How to Survive a Plague (which Schulman rightfully criticizes, though I wouldn't completely dismiss the book, which does tell well certain strands of the history of the Crisis, like the Callen-Berkowitz-Sonnabend triangle, the New York Native early coverage, and certain aspects of the TAG group), and quite a few of the ACT UP Oral History interviews, but this book really cleared things up in so many ways and made the connections that were lying hidden or unpresented before. I was wondering if the book would feel too bogged down by the interviews, or redundant for those who'd read many interviews, but Schulman did an amazing job of bringing the interviewees into the book, letting them speak as a chorus, and contextualizing and making the connections that many of the ACT UP members couldn't make without a full view of the history. She shows that each individual had a different idea of who constituted ACT UP, even multiple ideas depending on what it was contrasted with. Schulman has said many times that "you can only meet people where they're at", and that reflection is one we must all be conscious of. The ACT UP NY members all met each other at the Center, but some couldn't or wouldn't meet each other where they were, and those gaps, widened by miscommunication, misunderstanding, and escalated in conflict, led to the split that Schulman details well at the end of the book. Reading this book the reader can see all of the ideas and history that Schulman has engaged with in her previous works, such as in Conflict is not Abuse, The Gentrification of the Mind, Stagestruck, and her works of fictions like People in Trouble and Rat Bohemia. I found reading those books, especially Conflict, Gentrification, and Rat Bohemia, before this one helped in recognizing the history and things she highlights. Even though the book is huge, the chapters stand alone enough and most are short enough that you can read it at any pace you like, which I found nice. And though it is thorough and expansive, it isn't exhaustive. There's more that can be read in the oral history interviews (like Petrelis's, Strub's, and Bill Bahlman's, which details the history of the Lavender Hill Mob which preceded ACT UP), and there are so many histories and stories outside of the scope of this book waiting to be told, and I'm glad Schulman's done the work of telling some of these stories, and giving the people who need it a roadmap and an example to follow.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This is a true monster of a book, and I really really enjoyed it. Having read How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS years ago, I was wondering if this account had anything new to say. It did! I learned so much about activism through this book. Also, I loved how much it focused on women and minorities dealing with AIDS. Very much worth a read. This is a true monster of a book, and I really really enjoyed it. Having read How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS years ago, I was wondering if this account had anything new to say. It did! I learned so much about activism through this book. Also, I loved how much it focused on women and minorities dealing with AIDS. Very much worth a read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I was in middle school in the late 1980s/early 90s so definitely knew about HIV/AIDS (I remember discussing Magic Johnson's announcement he was HIV+ in a 7th or 8th grade civics class). But it wasn't something I registered as necessarily relevant until I was much older and that I understood that HIV and AIDS was everywhere, including Kansas, where I was from. Which is to say reading about ACT UP filled in a lot of the history I didn't have. This oral history is magnificent for so many reasons. In I was in middle school in the late 1980s/early 90s so definitely knew about HIV/AIDS (I remember discussing Magic Johnson's announcement he was HIV+ in a 7th or 8th grade civics class). But it wasn't something I registered as necessarily relevant until I was much older and that I understood that HIV and AIDS was everywhere, including Kansas, where I was from. Which is to say reading about ACT UP filled in a lot of the history I didn't have. This oral history is magnificent for so many reasons. In no particular order, first, to read about the response a collective of people had in New York to a pandemic while living now in a different pandemic is striking. Activism vs. apathy. Second, Schulman centers the stories of women and people of color in ACT UP, which also highlights who the PWA (people with AIDS) were-- not just white men. Third, you will read about Anthony Fauci and it's not always flattering. Let The Record Show is long but the stories and memories are profoundly moving. The organization that was involved in this one collective made up of so many smaller groups was amazing. All the actions that people were involved in, non-violent, that did actually produce change. Some of the work was administrative and bureaucratic and some was learning about and teaching medicine and science. For many people involved this became a community and family. I listened to this on a lot of long walks and still had to check it out from the library a second time. I don't necessarily think you need to read the whole thing to understand it. It is a great primary resource. But I'm glad I did read the whole thing and I'm glad Schulman dedicated herself to collecting and recording the stories. A favorite read for me this year.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Seamus

    It took me a while to get Thru this book because of its length but I love how much better this book is for representation of women and POC In act up and I feel like this is way beyond what I expected to read. It was sad and funny and shocking. Like it is written by a CSI professor but I didn’t expect the author to name drop prominent members of the faculty of csi including Cynthia Chris and Jason Simon. It is all so cool! I really do enjoy the book and if you like oral histories this book is for It took me a while to get Thru this book because of its length but I love how much better this book is for representation of women and POC In act up and I feel like this is way beyond what I expected to read. It was sad and funny and shocking. Like it is written by a CSI professor but I didn’t expect the author to name drop prominent members of the faculty of csi including Cynthia Chris and Jason Simon. It is all so cool! I really do enjoy the book and if you like oral histories this book is for you! I read the audiobook but also purchased a copy of the physical book to read along bc it helped lol. Thank you professor schulman for a great read!!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nick Melloan-ruiz

    Finally this document exists

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Allen

    A stunning project—everyone should read

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zach Shultz

    This book changed the way I think about AIDS history. An important contribution not only to queer history but American history more broadly. A guide for anyone interested in social movements and political organizing. A sweeping tribute to those lost to the AIDS epidemic and those who survived and live with its enduring legacy. I'm so excited for this book to be out in the world, and I hope it will be read and taught widely! Check out my interview with the author here: https://electricliterature.c This book changed the way I think about AIDS history. An important contribution not only to queer history but American history more broadly. A guide for anyone interested in social movements and political organizing. A sweeping tribute to those lost to the AIDS epidemic and those who survived and live with its enduring legacy. I'm so excited for this book to be out in the world, and I hope it will be read and taught widely! Check out my interview with the author here: https://electricliterature.com/sarah-...

  19. 5 out of 5

    pattrice

    I will never stop being grateful to Sarah Schulman for this book. Every page is a mitzvah. Read this book if you were in ACTUP/NY or (like me) one of the many ACTUP chapters elsewhere. Read this book if you were queer, an injection drug user, or otherwise outcast in the late 80s and early 90s. Read every single word of this book if you were a straight adult who did nothing to help us during those years. Read this book if you are an activist of any sort, because you need to understand how a "diverse I will never stop being grateful to Sarah Schulman for this book. Every page is a mitzvah. Read this book if you were in ACTUP/NY or (like me) one of the many ACTUP chapters elsewhere. Read this book if you were queer, an injection drug user, or otherwise outcast in the late 80s and early 90s. Read every single word of this book if you were a straight adult who did nothing to help us during those years. Read this book if you are an activist of any sort, because you need to understand how a "diverse group of individuals, united in anger" used direct action within an "inside/outside" strategy to force both the government and the pharmaceutical industry to change, saving lives and shifting public opinion along the way.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tom Scott

    I remember the San Francisco chapter of ACT UP (Golden Gate) in the early 90s mainly by their ubiquitous stickers and their loud demonstrations in the Castro and down Market Street. If you asked me at the time what they were clamoring about I might have said, “AIDS research.” This isn’t wholly incorrect but isn’t really correct either. But that’s ok, I wasn’t their target audience. They were much more strategic than that. This is an oral history of ACT UP New York, which is where the group began, I remember the San Francisco chapter of ACT UP (Golden Gate) in the early 90s mainly by their ubiquitous stickers and their loud demonstrations in the Castro and down Market Street. If you asked me at the time what they were clamoring about I might have said, “AIDS research.” This isn’t wholly incorrect but isn’t really correct either. But that’s ok, I wasn’t their target audience. They were much more strategic than that. This is an oral history of ACT UP New York, which is where the group began, taken from a few hundred interviews of past members over a 15-year span. It necessarily omits many voices but the book provides a pretty good sense of what being in ACT UP was like, and what they accomplished. And it's amazing how much real change they did accomplish in the short years they were at their peak (roughly ’87–’92). Initially formed to focus on hectoring the government to “get (experimental AIDS) drugs into bodies,” the group's eventual expansion beyond this scope exposed fissures in ideologies based in large part on member’s different levels of privilege, access, class, education, sex, and HIV status. This lead to much internal political drama, which is intriguing to read about. The book is loosely presented as a guidebook for today's activists (in whatever cause) to study tactics that worked. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the passion of ACT UP might be hard to duplicate since these people were literally fighting to halt their own impending deaths. It's long (600+ pages) but an easy and worthwhile read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lacy

    Everyone needs to read this book. ACT UP New York saved lives during a time when all parts of society (government, church, media) were actively ignoring HIV/AIDS and were actively harming people with AIDS.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Daire O’Boyle

    feeling really really lucky to have read the hundreds of stories that make up this work :,)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Harry McDonald

    I will write about this, but I can't right now. I will write about this, but I can't right now.

  24. 4 out of 5

    G

    Inspiring, frustrating, moving, depressing — this innovative book is a revelation and a necessary read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    In the lengthy Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, author Sarah Schulman documents and analyzes the ideals, actions, successes and failures of the people who made up the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, specifically the first chapter in New York City, from its early days to its diminution in the early 1990s. This is not a chronological history. Schulman divides the more than 700-page tome into 'books,' sections that take on specific subjects. The influence of f In the lengthy Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, author Sarah Schulman documents and analyzes the ideals, actions, successes and failures of the people who made up the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, specifically the first chapter in New York City, from its early days to its diminution in the early 1990s. This is not a chronological history. Schulman divides the more than 700-page tome into 'books,' sections that take on specific subjects. The influence of feminism, the conflicts of racism within and outside the group, and the divergence of street theatre protests and scientific research make up the tree of knowledge and empowerment the organization brought to its members and to People With AIDS. In the Preface, Schulman wastes no time in critiquing popular culture's interpretation of the AIDS crisis, from the film Philadelphia to the play Angels in America, in which, she notes, playwright Tony Kushner used AIDS as a metaphor, not a historical account. The most interesting parts are not so much the theory and rhetoric, but excerpts from interviews Schulman conducted over several years, with film director Jim Hubbard, those interviews and archival meeting and protest footage would later become the film United in Anger. Full disclosure; I was an active member of ACT UP/NY from 1988 to 1992, and participated in most of the larger actions documented in Let the Record Show, along with the hours-long weekly Monday night meetings held at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, and later, as ACT UP grew in numbers, at Cooper Union. With 188 interviews (which can also be viewed online via various libraries and museums), the book provides multiple insights and reflections from the major organizers and members in the organization. (Lesser participants, like myself, who devised smaller yet clever actions, declined to be interviewed, and are not included in this account). Much of the book is Schulman's own writing, in which she contextualizes, at length with accuracy, the times in which New Yorkers lived. From Mayor Ed Koch's indifference to homelessness and poverty, to the injustices in healthcare towards women and people of color, the overwhelming governmental neglect and incompetence set the stage for the AIDS epidemic, and activists' call for alarm. Schulman does not gloss over the problems within ACT UP/NY. From financial swindles to rifts between members, to the much-argued decision to protest the Catholic Church both outside and inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in December 1989, disagreements are documented as well as allegiances. One of the major successes of the movement was the focus on access to treatments. That included sub-groups who targeted double-blind placebo tests as cruel and useless, when PWAs were more than willing to be test subjects. Along with epidemiological breakthroughs, through the interviews and recollections, the humanity of ACT UP members is recalled. Many in the group were working toward national and global solutions while eagerly seeking any information on potential beneficial drugs to actually help them, at a time when the toxic AZT was the only approved medication. Dying days Many people, in their last months, gave final speeches at the weekly meetings in the then-called Gay and Lesbian Community Center, including author David B. Feinberg, Bob Rafsky (known for confronting Bill Clinton) and gay rights pioneer Marty Robinson. We organized and attended memorials, almost weekly. We endured lengthy discussions, but also banded together in numerous interlinked social —and yes, romantic— circles. While there were deaths, there was also a vibrant tribal connection. As prominent ACT UPer Jim Eigo is quoted, "It was the most splendid idea of community I've ever been a part of." Eigo and retired chemist Iris Long were the co-creators of the Treatment and Data newsletter, and among the 'insiders' who spent years negotiating with FDA and NIH representatives, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, to expand access to drug trails. Early in the book, in a section focusing on Puerto Rican ACT UP members' work, Schulman admits that the group's membership was mostly white and male. Yet with a broad focus that eschews the (also white male) media gaze, she shares the stories and work of the many women and POC members who contributed greatly to the organization's successes. Each featured interviewee is also given a brief personal background. The years-long struggle to redefine AIDS to include women focuses on Marion Banzhaf, Heidi Dorow, Linda Meredith, Garance Franke-Ruta, Tracey Morgan, Maxine Wolfe and others fought to access government medical meetings, where their male activist colleagues were more welcome. Drug trails refused to include women, and even Anthony Fauci came to impasse at one meeting, where he refused to acknowledge their needs. This culminated in one of several national actions, at the Atlanta Center for Disease Control. The oft-repeated slogan in posters and leaflets: "Women Don't Get AIDS, They Just Die From It." Take me to church As more often a 'foot soldier' in the group, for me, one of the more fascinating sections of the book documents the conception and execution of large-scale actions, from the Wall Street protests to days when busloads of activists traveled to the FDA and National Institute of Health, to the CDC, and to International AIDS conferences in Montreal and San Francisco. The October 1988 FDA protest most notably put ACT UP in the media spotlight on a global scale by also using clever media tactics. In multiple interview excerpts, Ann Northrup (a veteran TV news producer) and Chip Duckett (a book publicist and nightclub promoter), along with Michelangelo Signorile (a publicist and later OutWeek columnist and author) and others, trained the media to assign advance coverage of the national event by supporting regional homegrown chapters of ACT UP to provide a local angle. Finding a local person with AIDS and people who were planning to attend led to multiple media outlets' coverage of the protest. In a dramatic multiple-interview account of Stop the Church, the famous protest in and outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in December 1989, key participants, including members of WHAM (Women's Health Action and Mobilization) offer their memories: Emily Nahmanson's baptism by fire, it being her first protest; Victor Mendolia's conviction in questioning the religious interference in public health policy; Michael Petrelis' impulsive decision to stand atop a pew shouting, "You're killing us!" as a hundred others (including this writer) silently lay down in the aisles. Thomas Keane recalls the moment he crumbled a holy wafer instead of taking communion. Neil Broome describes armored police boots clicking on the marble floors. Despite the mostly negative media coverage, and discouragement by some ACT UPers afterward, Northrup said, "We were doing what we were doing to accomplish something about particular issues, and I think we did that, enormously successfully. We weren't liked, but we forced people to pay attention and forced change." Collective contributions While a collective, there were leaders who took on different roles. The book's 'Inspiration and Influence' section profiles author Larry Kramer, Mark Harrington who 'saw AIDS treatment as a puzzle" and co-created the spin-off TAG (Treatment Action Group), and frequent meeting facilitator Maxine Wolfe, whose life of activism helped shape the group's practical focus. And of course, the iconic 'Silence = Death' stickers, posters, pamphlets and T-shirts are referenced and their origins traced, as designed by Gran Fury (Avram Finkelstein, Jorge Socarrás and others) who brought their graphic arts and advertising expertise to create some of the most iconic imagery of 20th-century activism. Video collectives like DIVA-TV documented protests on film and VHS tape and helped to reframe the depiction of PWAs while documenting police brutality. The arts focus culminated in the $650,000 raised at the first Art Auction, where the famous mingled with the foot soldiers. Later in the book, personality clashes, divisions that led to TAG leaving ACT UP, and financial abuse by one member, were aspects that led to the decline in membership and focus. One of the latter yet most dramatic of protests, held in October 1992 under the Bush administration; the Ashes Action, with the cremated ashes of at least eighteen members and loved ones of ACT UP dispersed through the fence and onto the White House lawn. Although most of the major events are shared in detail through the perspectives of multiple participants and organizers, since the book is formed by concepts, the timeline is off. Stop the Church is described before earlier (smaller yet pivotal) actions like Peter Staley and his associates' covert infiltration of the Wall Street Stock Exchange. Even the origin of the group's name is only revealed midway through in the section about art and media. However, a chronological timeline of most events is provided in one of the appendices. Could such a vibrant movement have been sustained? Schulman ponders this as well in her eloquent summations. Her expansive account may offer insights into today's social justice movements and activism. Some may consider this more of a scholarly or historic book. But given the current pandemic and the opposing uses of protest by Black Lives Matter versus violent pro-Trump insurrectionists, it is important that such a lengthy document shows how activism was accomplished in a now-seemingly distant analog age of fax machines and phone trees. Every person who now takes a life-saving or HIV-prevention medication owes a great deal to the vibrant, exciting, frustrating Monday night meetings where it all began. As Schulman writes, her book "is an effort to make clear how the AIDS rebellion succeeded, and to face where it failed, in order to be more conscious and deliberate, and therefore effective, today." (originally published in the Bay Area Reporter)

  26. 5 out of 5

    sarah

    The only thing I had ever read about ACT UP before this was a term paper I peer reviewed in 11th grade USH, so this definitely fleshed out the topic a little more. The subject matter was fascinating, and I liked that it was told through oral history, but arranging the chapters by theme as opposed to chronologically made some of the events hard for me to follow, especially because it was my first real exposure to the history of the organization. Overall a really impressive and moving work!

  27. 5 out of 5

    George Neville-Neil

    A thorough and engaging history of a successful political movement. For those who lived through this period this puts a lot of things in perspective and brings to light actions that were less public than protests but equally as important to addressing the crisis. Schulman does a good job of weaving the interviews of the oral history project into a coherent narrative that has lessons for those doing social justice work even now.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eolann

    The first time I read anything by Sarah Schulman, it was a few years after I had seen the TV adaptation of 'Angels in America", the two part play dealing with the initial years of the HIV epidemic in New York. I'd been really blown away by the TV adaptation, with its verbose, larger than life dialogue and grand energy. Anything I read about the play was similarly positive and lauditory, describing it as one of the great plays of the 20th century, and the definitive depiction of the AIDS crisis. The first time I read anything by Sarah Schulman, it was a few years after I had seen the TV adaptation of 'Angels in America", the two part play dealing with the initial years of the HIV epidemic in New York. I'd been really blown away by the TV adaptation, with its verbose, larger than life dialogue and grand energy. Anything I read about the play was similarly positive and lauditory, describing it as one of the great plays of the 20th century, and the definitive depiction of the AIDS crisis. So I remember being surprised when I came across an excerpt of (I think) an interview with Schulman, absolutely laying into the play. In her view, 'Angels in America' was a craven and inaccurate depiction of the AIDS crisis, and was succesfuly mostly for the way it appeased the prejudices and sensibilities of a majority straight theatre going audience. This view was contrary to most other responses I'd seen to 'Angels in America', but was also well argued and engaging enough to make me think twice about how I'd responded to the play. I came across Schulman intermittently after that; she popped up in discussions around gentrification, anti assimilationist critiques of gay marriage, and solidarity work toward Palestinian activists, generally advocating one of the more radical positions. After reading a seperate book about ACT-UP and the first wave of response to the HIV epidemic in New York, titled "How to Survive a Plague" that was also made into a documentary, both of which I found very powerful, I stumbled across her again making a persuasive argument to the contrary, saying that, as an engaged member of ACT-UP at the time, she thought that both the documentary and the film were inaccurate, selective depictions of ACT-UP, and would be better titled the five white people who saved the world. In the preface to "Let the Record Show", Schulman again lays out her critiques of "Angels in America" and "How to Survive a Plague", and sets out her stall for what the book will be; part oral history of ACT-UP, part personal recollection of her time as a member, part political analysis of the group and the different impacts it achieved, and part how-to guide for current activists about what they can learn from ACT-UPs successes and failures. Like in the previous encounters I've had with her work, in this book Schulman is bullish, contrarian and persuasive about what she sees as the misrepresentation of ACT-UP as an exclusivley white, male, gay, midddle class organisation. She provides an overview of these elements in the group, and excerpts oral testimonials from them, but she also includes the inputs of the organisations members who were female, lesbian, black, latino, poor, who were drug users, and shows the various impacts and contributions they also made to ACT-UPs efforts, and how much of the organisations way of operating had its roots in the women's movement, radical leftist groups and other spheres of influence. The oral testimony that is scattered throughout the book is incredibly moving, and Schulmans analysis and overview of ACT-UPs lifespan feels insightful and original. In particular i was completely unaware of how central activism by people who use drugs was as a part of ACT-UP, and how the group laid the foundation for much of the harm reduction efforts that are taking place today; this is one of many examples that could be given of how the groups membership and impacts have been flattened out subsequently. This perspective, and the depth and breadth of the oral testimonies, which Schulman collected over 18 years of research, is distinct to this book. She often will provide her own emphatic interpretation of events as a participant, which runs against the oral testimony of individuals she is excerpting. At other times she allows contrary perspectives of different people to read side by side, showing the range of opinions and attitudes there was in ACT-UP, and how these clash, often angrily. Schulmans argument is that this diversity of opinions and tactics was in fact one of the key strengths for the organisation and that this type of internal debate is a good thing; at one point i was struck by how one activist, who Schulman has respectfully quoted and highlighted throughout the book, is also mentioned as having screamed at Schulman in a meeting that a course of action she was arguing for her would kill people. As original as this perspective and research is, the central fact of the book is the same as with pretty much ever other history of the first years of the AIDS crisis: the horrific circumstances that people had to endure, watching friends and loved ones die painful and protracted deaths, often knowing the same thing was likely to happen to them; the indifference of wider society to all this suffering; and the youth of many of the people involved, the majority of who are interviewed were in their early to mid twenties while they were experiencing all this. While Schulmans perspective and arguments are compelling, for me a weakness of the book is that the prose itself is quite workman like and sometimes pedestrian, especally in contrast to the more vivid oral testimony. A comparison that I thought of was Taylor Branch's history of the civil rights movement, which was similarly well researched and conpellingly argued, but was also written in a way that was incredibly fluid and skilled. I know that Schulman is also a novelist , so I'd be interested to read one of her other books to see what her writing style is like in a fiction setting away from this type of narrative reporting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gyalten Lekden

    There already exists recorded histories of ACT UP, most notably "How to Survive a Plague," but Schulman convincingly shows that there is a much more robust and important history than the somewhat one-sided stories documented elsewhere. Working with Jim Hubbard over 35 years to collect more than 180 interviews from people who were active in ACT UP from its inception in 1987 - 1993, she tells a fuller history of ACT UP, using these exhaustive interviews to weave together her own memories and exper There already exists recorded histories of ACT UP, most notably "How to Survive a Plague," but Schulman convincingly shows that there is a much more robust and important history than the somewhat one-sided stories documented elsewhere. Working with Jim Hubbard over 35 years to collect more than 180 interviews from people who were active in ACT UP from its inception in 1987 - 1993, she tells a fuller history of ACT UP, using these exhaustive interviews to weave together her own memories and experience. (Note, the film "United in Anger," directed by Jim Hubbard and co-produced by Schulman, is based on the same interviews, and is a 90 minute, condensed version of the less one-sided history that this book fleshes out more fully). The book can get a bit dense, as it doesn't follow a strictly chronological telling, and it brings in lots of voices that can sometimes cause it to seem like it is repeating itself. But at the same time, it emphasizes the enormity of what this community was facing, and what kind of resources--emotional, physical, creative, and fiscal--it took to not only make it through but to fight the whole time. Many didn't make it through, a generation of people decimated. And this is the story of the passion and resolve it took to stand up to the violence of an indifferent government, the violence of ignorance and shame and grief. So for as dense as the book gets, it doesn't feel like it is overstaying its welcome. There is still more to tell, and so there is more to learn. While there was an immediacy to the life and death nature of the struggle that was unavoidable at the time, and that definitely influenced what activism looked like and how it operated, there is still a lot to learn from this history. People may not be wasting away and dying as quickly or publicly as the first fifteen years of the AIDS epidemic, but that doesn't mean that the stakes are less stark, just that they are less obvious. Those looking to continue with social activism work, with good trouble, with fighing for not just the lives but the common decency of those who many would still rather be forgotten, there is a lot to learn from ACT UP. They weren't perfect, but their failures offer lessons, too. Their example isn't one just for queer rights activists to take but one that offers lessons for all sorts of social justice work. Schulman clearly has an opinion about who was in the right and who wasn't in the way things ended up happening in ACT UP, especially the splinter of TAG from ACT UP in 1992, and that is pretty clear in her presentation of the history. She doesn't seem to be distorting information, and she includes first-person accounts and rationales from people she doesn't seem to agree with, but some of the wounds seem to be as fresh now as ever. I'm not sure how that affected my reading of the history. Sometimes reading it I was wishing I didn't sense this spite, and other times I felt like there was no other way to make sure this otherwise erased history was properly included and told than to tell it with a low-level of antagonism directed toward some of those who had told one-sided versions of history preceding her. But ACT UP was never an objective organization, it was an emotional one. Passionate and driven and determined. And so of course its oral history has to be the same.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This is an outstanding work of historical journalism that artfully rounds out what I would consider to be an ultimate trilogy of HIV/AIDS must-reads -- "And the Band Played On," "How to Survive a Plague," -- and "Let the Record Show." "And the Band On," is a talented but flawed work that suffers from the pitfalls of works produced "in the thick of things;" while "How to Survive a Plague," (as Schulman discusses skillfully) is a mostly white male perspective on all things HIV/AIDS. "Let the Recor This is an outstanding work of historical journalism that artfully rounds out what I would consider to be an ultimate trilogy of HIV/AIDS must-reads -- "And the Band Played On," "How to Survive a Plague," -- and "Let the Record Show." "And the Band On," is a talented but flawed work that suffers from the pitfalls of works produced "in the thick of things;" while "How to Survive a Plague," (as Schulman discusses skillfully) is a mostly white male perspective on all things HIV/AIDS. "Let the Record Show" doesn't so much fill in the gaps as it does flesh out the entire activist movement, bringing in vibrant diversity and shining colors and truly delving into the intersectionality that was required at the core of ACT UP. Schulman's work is searing, frank, detailed, and uniquely educational, presented with passion and commitment. There is so much to learn in these pages, and there is so much that any activist, for any cause, can take away from the groundbreaking actions of this tenacious group of people. There is so much to consider, so many different perspectives to mull over, and so much rich backstory to a lot of what we think of as "common" today. Be warned that given this is so in depth a study of ACT UP, Schulman does assume that the reader is familiar with the big (white) names -- Kramer, Staley, Sonnabend, Harrington, etc. and I would not recommend this be your first book on a history of the HIV/AIDS crisis. But it is definitely a must read if you're already interested. 4/5 stars - and I hope I can articulate this well - because I felt the organization was a bit of a mess; but then again, I prefer my historical works to be in chronological order, otherwise it can be difficult to follow. However, there is perfectly acceptable method behind the organization here. Some chapters, like those on art in the activist movements could have used some serious editing, and I felt that Schulman had a biased tendency to try to push/steer individuals towards talking about women (for example, in the early chapters she comes off as almost paternalistic in chiding some Latino interviewees for having to remind them to talk about women). This went away as the book went on, and as she interviewed more female subjects. I also thought she could be a bit overly dismissive/harsh towards gay white men, and reluctant to acknowledge that some of their contributions were massively important and useful, despite the fact that they marginalized others in the process of achieving them. The end of the book was seriously hampered by the inclusion of a "Personal Conclusion" which was somewhat of a bizarre, almost egotistical centering of Schulman as a victim of massive loss. Not to say that she isn't, but she is not a person living with HIV, and after a book that details the lives mostly of individuals who did die, or will die, of AIDs, I think this personal musing about her own illness, and how she felt sitting and chit chatting with her nurses, severely detracted from the power of the last few chapters of the book - particularly, the one focused on Political Funerals. All in all, though, a really incredible collection of stories, playbooks, perspectives, and experiences that deserves preservation throughout the ages.

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