“The Other Pandemic” is both a reminder and an educational read

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Book cover of "The Other Pandemic" by Lynn Curlee
Book cover of "The Other Pandemic" by Lynn Curlee

COVID-19 was and still is a widespread issue. The height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 brought life as it was known to an abrupt standstill. Hours at the local markets and restaurants became shortened if not outright closed; travel was slowed to a standstill; streets were empty.

Existence as it was known was changed.

The Other Pandemic: An Aids Memoir by Lynn Curlee tells the story of the beginnings, heights, and weakened continuation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic through his memories. The memoir has its joyous highs; moving to New York City, becoming a successful artist, making a close knit group of friends, dancing at disco clubs every Saturday night, Curlee meeting his life partner. But for all its highs it has its lows.

The beginning of the AIDS crisis is remembered. It once was called GRID (gay related immune deficiency) and the refusal of the government to take a solid stance on fighting the crisis was no secret. And then there is the deaths of Curlee’s close friends and his life partner.

Curlee writes a fast and highly educational read. Many who are familiar with the HIV/AIDS pandemic either from their own research or experience living through it will be given mostly reminders of what happened. However, its relatability may offer support — a reminder that is vital to the continued safety of those around us.

Despite it being a young adult book targeted at those twelve years and older, it is written with a voice that makes it accessible and intriguing to all ages. Young people that want to learn about this time in history will be given a digestible amount of information without it being too short, but not overloaded and confusing. The book is a beautifully written memoir wrapped into an educational piece, not like some musty boring history textbook.

Curlee offers pictures of his life: his friends and family; the places he traveled; famous figures during the AIDS crisis. He also writes educational notes to provide more context — some about the research being done at the time, others about the government’s almost non-existent reaction to the increasing numbers of deaths.

The facts are infuriating, as they should be. History is often enraging. In the time of AIDS’ height the government used funding, research, and publicity that could have saved people earlier as a political football. It was much like COVID-19 was at first. The pictures Curlee provides give us a look at not only his life, but the outrage that a whole generation of LGBTQ people that were ravaged by a disease that could have been stalled sooner.

This history should make us angry. Curlee gives people of all ages the ability to use history to better understand current policy and culture around health issues.

The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir by Lynn Curlee ISBN 9781623543501

Siegfried Schaefer
Siegfried Schaefer is a senior at Montclair State University. He is a German major with a minor in Myth Studies. He enjoys reading and watching sci-fi and fantasy in his freetime, and loves to analyze the themes of gender, queerness, and neurodivergence in these stories. Out In Jersey is the first publication Siegfried has worked with.