This post was written by Abdi Nazemian, author of Like a Love Story, which is out now »
Writing a Love Letter to the LGBTQIAP+ Community
by Abdi Nazemian
At the height of the U.S. AIDS epidemic in the early 1990’s, a college friend of mine conducted a survey. He asked us what kind of future we saw for ourselves with each passing decade. Where would we be at twenty? At thirty? None of the gay men he spoke to—myself included—could envision life for ourselves past forty. Looking back, this doesn’t surprise me.
Growing up, I thought I had a choice between being myself and staying alive, which isn’t a choice at all. Either way, I wouldn’t truly be living. My generation wasn’t old enough to be on the front lines at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, nor were we young enough to exist in a time when treatment was widely available. We were discovering our sexuality with fear drilled into us. This made it incredibly difficult to open myself up to love, and that’s what I wanted to explore in this novel: the power of love in the face of fear.
This book is a love story, but it’s also a love letter.
It is a love letter to activism, specifically the activists of ACT UP, who created change at the heights of the U.S. AIDS epidemic, when so many – especially the government– had turned their backs on the queer community. I came of age as a teen during this era, and was taught to equate my sexuality with, at best, shame, and at worst, death. Without these activists, I could never have the full, rich life I lead now. But while this book is specifically about ACT UP, my hope is that readers will find in its pages keys on how to fight injustice today. Once again, the government is turning its back on whole groups of people. Once again, injustice is rampant, and we must find ways of combating it. What better place to look for inspiration than from a community that came together to care and fight for each other when no one else would?
This book is a love letter to art, and to the profound impact that art can have on helping us accept ourselves. As an Iranian teenager coming into my sexuality in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I had very little access to queer stories or media, outside of the frightening headlines in the news. Celebratory depictions of queer life were nonexistent in my world, until Madonna brought them to me. This book celebrates Madonna’s championship of the queer community back when few in the mainstream were brave enough to be outspoken. And it celebrates so many other authors, musicians, actors and artists who gave voice to queer life. My hope is that by showing the impact art has on the lives of teens, readers will be able to celebrate the art that has given them a voice – that book, that musician, that filmmaker who helped them come alive.
But most of all, this book is a love letter to love itself, in all its forms. Romantic love. The love between friends. The love for our family and our culture. The love for our cities and our communities and our history.
I am past forty now, with the family I always wanted but could never have imagined for myself as a scared teenager. The fact that I now live in a world that welcomes a diverse, queer story like this one is something I am profoundly grateful for. Books like this exist because of open-hearted teens, and I can’t to watch and learn from this new generation of activists.