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Posts Tagged ‘activism’

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This book has dual time frames told in alternating chapters:

In 1985 in Chicago – and across the United States – AIDS has devastated the gay community. The story starts with a group of friends mourning the AIDS related death of their friend Nico. These chapters are largely told from the point of view of Yale Tishman and through Yale, we witness the ongoing crisis, and it’s effects.

In 2015, Nico’s sister Fiona, now in her early 50s, has gone to Paris to track down her estranged daughter Claire. Through these chapters we learn about the fates of various characters in the earlier timeline, and understand what Fiona went through, watching not only her brother, but so many of their friends die at the hands of a virus which the government at the time seemed largely unbothered about.

This is without question my favourite book that I have read so far this year – and I’d put it into at least my top 10 of all-time favourites. I absolutely adored Yale, and appreciated that Makkai drew so many believable and distinct characters which made up his friendship group and other acquaintances. She does not portray heroes and villains, just incredibly ‘real’ characters, who I felt like I genuinely knew and cared for. I do feel that the early timeline on its own would have made for an interesting and wonderful novel, but the 2015 story added to it, in that we could see what an effect Fiona’s experiences had had on her as an adult.

I could write about this book all day, and good luck to anyone who asks me about it – you’re going to need to set aside a few hours while I wax lyrical! However, I don’t think I could do it justice. It is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, uplifting, thought provoking novel, and I recommend it to literally everyone.

 

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The Normal Heart is a fictionalised account of a gay activist, who tried to raise awareness of AIDS in New York in the early 1980s. Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo, in a role based on The Normal Heart’s writer Larry Kramer) is horrified when gay men start dying of what is called Gay Cancer, and he starts a HIV Advocacy group, in an attempt to get the government to take notice, and to help raise awareness. Weeks prefers a more outspoken way of tackling the problem, unlike many of his fellow members of the group, some of whom are not openly gay, and this causes tension amongst them. During this time, Weeks falls in love with Felix (Matt Bomer) a journalist who is also frustrated at the restrictions on what he can write about.

The film also stars Jim Parsons as Tommy (based on Rodger McFarlane), a friend of Ned, Taylor Kitsch as Bruce (based on Paul Popham), another member of the Advocacy group, Julia Roberts as a Doctor who tries to raise awareness (based on real life Doctor Linda Laubenstein). Albert Molina also appears as Ned’s brother, who loves him but struggles to understand his lifestyle or the crusade he has set himself upon.

Well – wow! It’s hard to describe just how fantastic I thought this film was. It was heartbreaking and inspiring all the at the same time. Kramer wrote the play which the film is adapted from, in 1985, at which time the AIDS crisis was in full flow. I cannot imagine how it must have felt to watch his friends dying in such numbers, and yet to be more or less ignored by the government. Mark Ruffalo really portrayed the frustration and anger that Ned Weeks felt. Matt Bomer won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor as Felix, and it was totally deserved. (Ruffalo was also nominated for Best Actor). Jim Parsons – best known for the role of Sheldon Cooper in comedy The Big Bang Theory – was a revelation here, and brought a lot of warmth to the film

I could probably wax lyrical about this film all day long, but for anyone with the slightest passing interest in the AIDS crisis, or the political and social reaction to it, this is an absolute must-see. Keep a box of tissues handy – you WILL cry. Very highly recommended to all.

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Year of release: 2014

Director: Ryan Murphy

Producers: Jason Blum, Dante Di Loreto, Dede Gardner, Ryan Murphy, Brad Pitt, Mark Ruffalo, Scott Ferguson, Gina Lamar, Ned Martel, Alexis Martin Woodall

Writers: Larry Kramer (play), Ryan Murphy

Main cast: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Groff, Taylor Kitsch, Joe Mantello, Stephen Spinella, BD Wong, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Finn Wittrock

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John Briley’s novel was adapted from his own screenplay for the film of the same name, which in turn was adapted from two books by Donald Woods (‘Biko’ and ‘Asking for Trouble’).

It tells the true story of the friendship between white Journalist Donald Woods, and black anti-Apartheid activist Stephen Biko, in South Africa in the 1970s.  Initially suspicious of each other’s motives, Woods and Biko become united, driven by their desire for equality in South Africa.  When Biko dies in Police Custody – the Police’s story is that he died of a self-imposed hunger strike, while Biko’s body, and the routine practices of certain Police at the time make it clear that he was beaten and tortured to death – Woods is determined to tell Biko’s story to the rest of the world.  However, the South African government and Police are determined to stop him, and place a banning order on him, effectively placing him under house arrest, and not allowing him to be in the company of more than one person at a time, save for immediate family.  However, Woods is determined that Biko’s story should be told.

I enjoyed the book a lot – it made me gasp in horror at times, but was very compelling.  The injustices committed against people in this book made my eyes pop, even though I already knew something about them.

The story is told in two parts – the first covers the friendship between the two men, while the second, after Biko’s death, describes Woods’ determination to see some justice for his friend, by telling the story of Biko and what he was striving for in South Africa.  My only criticism of it would be that it doesn’t go into some areas in much depth, and I would have liked to have known more.  It does read like a novel (and is described as such by the author), and so even though it is a true story, it flows well, and is hard to put down.  I would have liked to have learned more about Biko’s life leading up to the events in the story, but as it is adapted from the screenplay, it only really describes what was happening in the film, which focused on just that time in Biko’s life.  However, I would still recommend this book highly.

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